Community & Worker Stories

Read below the experiences and perspectives of community members throughout the country on the importance of having access to family-sustaining, quality jobs. By allowing cities and states to incorporate pro-worker and pro-community policies in their public contracting for billions of dollars in federally-funded projects, we can make a substantial impact in the lives of individuals and families as we work toward building more sustainable and resilient communities.

As a community member who had to grapple with various barriers to employment, Evan Coffin has first-hand experience with the benefits of inclusive and equity-driven hiring programs. By participating in an apprenticeship readiness program, it helped him to prepare and develop the tools needed to succeed in finding employment at BYD (a union electric vehicle manufacturer) and build confidence in his many abilities.

I got put into the welding department (at BYD), where I will have an opportunity to become a welder, which is a great experience. I’ve already got my hand on the welding machine and done a little bit of training with one of my partners at work, which has been a blessing because I would never expect that I would be able to gain a trade like that. I always thought I would be a layman, a trade worker, and now I have an opportunity to grow, which is amazing because I’ve only been there for under 3 months.

It’s intimidating when you’re going into a field, because specifically I never used tools not a day in my life, so going into the WERC program was the first time I ever used tools, and I wasn’t confident in it, but when I went into BYD I was looking around and I saw that some of these people don’t know what I know because of what I learned … So I went in there and it was a confidence booster because I had a license, I had certificates for different things, so the hard skill portion really helped a lot and gave me, personally, the exposure I was gonna need.

[The WERC] program was peeling back layers, breaking down all those barriers I had, preconceived notions I had of myself concerning failure, rejection, it started to reveal in me a character I thought was gone.

Evan Coffin, California

Employee at BYD

Esmeralda is an active community member and leader in the Back of the Yards neighborhood of Chicago, IL. She has been an advocate for more community voice in development projects around Chicago, including a call for more quality job opportunities for local residents.

 Esmeralda es una líder activa en el vecindario Back of the Yards de Chicago, IL. Ella ha sido promotora para incluir la voz comunitaria en proyectos de desarrollo alrededor de Chicago, incluyendo un llamado para más oportunidades de empleo de buena calidad para los residentes locales.

Vivo y resido en Chicago, en Back of the Yards. Mis experiencias en los trabajos han sido muy cortas en diferentes áreas laborales. He trabajado en una compañía donde empacan todo tipo de verduras, como cilantro y laurel.

También trabajé en una empacadora de fruta y también en una empacadora de pan.
Trabajé en una empacadora en el 2018 y ahí me lastimé el hombro y fui discriminada cuando quise hacer el reporte. Me dijeron que lo iban a hacer, pero en el reporte iba a aparecer como que había sido negligencia mía. Aún así, tomé la decisión de meter el reporte y acudir al médico y afortunadamente días después conocí a Leóne que es parte de la organización Working Family Solidarity. De ahí, fue donde me llamó más la atención en quererme involucrar para saber cuáles son los derechos laborales y hasta ahorita, gracias a la organización he ido aprendiendo bastante.

La última de las experiencias fue que mi marido agarró un trabajo cerquita. Pero el Boss los acosaba mucho verbalmente, era demasiado grosero con malos tratos o si ocurre un accidente los hace responsables a ellos porque no tienen derecho a defenderse y tampoco no conocen mucho de sus derechos. Se aprovechan de eso y los terminan despidiendo.

Es injusto, pero es la realidad. En el barrio de nosotros es un poquito complicado por la violencia. Aunque estamos en medio de las compañías- porque Back of the Yards está compuesto y se dice ser el barrio de las empacadoras. Mucha de nuestra gente no se beneficia de los trabajos que hay tan cerca- digo mi gente porque es la comunidad latina la que menos se beneficia de las compañías tan cercas.

Vuelvo y te digo, tenemos trabajos a nuestro alrededor, pero no nos dan oportunidad. A fuerza tiene uno que buscar un trabajo bastante retirado. Por eso me gustaría que cambiarán las cosas, que hubiera oportunidad de cerquita.


I live and reside in Chicago, Back of the Yards. My job experiences have been very short in different areas of work. I have worked in a company where they pack all kinds of vegetables, such as cilantro and bay leaves. I also worked at a fruit packing company and a bread packing company.

In 2018, I worked at a packing factory where I hurt my shoulder and was discriminated against when I wanted to file a report. They told me that they were going to do it, but in the report it was going to appear as if it had been my negligence. Even so, I made the decision to file the report and go to the doctor and fortunately a few days later I met Leóne, who is part of the organization Working Family Solidarity. That’s where I became more interested in getting involved to learn about labor rights and so far, thanks to the organization, I’ve been learning a lot.

The last experience was when my husband got a job nearby. But the Boss harassed them a lot verbally, he was very rude with mistreatment or if an accident occurred he made them responsible because they don’t have the right to defend themselves and they also don’t know much about their rights. They take advantage of that and end up firing them. It is unfair, but it is the reality.

In our neighborhood it’s a little bit complicated because of the violence. Even though we are in the middle of all these companies – because Back of the Yards is made up of and is said to be the neighborhood of the packing factories. A lot of our people don’t benefit from the jobs that are so close – I say my people because it’s the Latino community that benefits the least from the companies that are so close.

Again I tell you, we have jobs all around us, but they don’t give us a chance. You have to look for a job far away. That’s why I would like things to change, that there would be opportunities close by.

Esmeralda de la Rosa, Illinois
Community Leader, Back of the Yards