Family Dept. workers demand wage justice
By John McPhaul
In the framework of International Women’s Day commemorations, workers from the island Family Department rallied at the Capitol in Puerta de Tierra on Monday to demand wage justice and better employment conditions.
“Today we are here representing each and every one of the administrations of the Family Department -- ADSEF, ADFAN, ASUME, ACUDEN and the Secretariat -- to demand better wages and working conditions,” said Karimir Torres Rosa, president of the Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union ProSol Family Department Chapter. “At the juncture of March 8 and in view of the appointment hearings for the Family secretary, Carmen González Magaz, and Senate Resolution 92, under the slogan “we bring bread to the table help us to bring bread to ours,” we are demanding that we receive wage justice in order to improve our quality of life. Poverty has the face of a woman and in the Family Department the vast majority of us are women. There are single mothers, and elderly women over 60 who have not yet been able to retire due to the economic precariousness that retirement offers.”
Torres Rosa, accompanied by male and female workers who occupy different positions in the various divisions of the Family Department, which as she said since day one of the pandemic “have worked to bring bread to thousands of Puerto Rican families,” noted that meetings have been held with different legislators to whom they have presented their claims, and who have been astonished to learn about their wages, since most were unaware of the situation.
“A year ago, just before this quarantine [due to the coronavirus pandemic], we also demonstrated in front of the secretariat,” Torres Rosa said. “Today we take to the streets again and we call on the governor, the Legislature and the Family secretary-designate that justice be done for us. Today we want the country to know our precarious and unfair salary situation.”
The union leader said Family Department employees are victims of institutional abuse.
“On January 24, 2021 a state of emergency was declared due to gender violence, an executive order was signed indicating that ‘all violence is repudiable’ [and] establishing mechanisms to supervise, follow up and monitor, [and] creating a committee chaired by the secretary-designate of the Family Department, Carmen González Magaz,” Torres Rosa said.
“A manifestation of violence is the precariousness of our salaries. The secretary is obliged to support our demand that justice be done for us.”
The average salary that the group of workers earn monthly is $1,341, which after deductions does not give them enough to survive, she said.
“Family Department workers lack economic stability, which has repercussions and is manifested in many ways,” the union leader said. “We have a monthly salary of barely enough to live on. We live in precariousness, we do not qualify for benefits, exemptions. We live paying one month for water and the other for electricity, in fear that our services will be suspended. We have postponed goals such as being able to buy our home since our salary does not provide enough for us. This is institutional abuse.”
Torres Rosa stressed that the Family Department should use the salaries paid to professional service employees hired to work in the Social and Family Assistance Technician program and at the Pandemic EBT Call Center as a frame of reference for doing salary justice, since those salaries exceed the earnings of department staff.
“We, the workers of the Family Department, are obliged to present ourselves after emergencies and natural disasters, working in subhuman conditions that threaten our health and safety,” Torres Rosa said.
“To this day, there are offices in total deterioration, waiting to be rehabilitated after the past natural events of hurricanes and earthquakes. That not only affects the worker, it also affects the people we serve. It is time for our claims to be heard and justice be done for us now.”