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Know Your Rights
Source: Queens Courier
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

STAR OF QUEENS: Sagrario Mendez, Volunteer, Make the Road New York, Rego Park


COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Sagrario Mendez volunteers with the organization Make the Road New York (MRNY) located in Corona, which gives immigrants the opportunity to get their GEDs (General Education Development certificate), learn English, improve their computer skills, learn safety and workers rights, prepare for the citizenship exam and play instruments. The program also teaches job skills like creating a résumé and getting certified for specific jobs. “I help out on Tuesday’s with the immigration class,” said Mendez, who also helps prepare the meals they give to members after meetings.

PERSONAL: Mendez, 60, worked for 27 years before she retired due to health problems with her asthma and back. “I was depressed before I found the organization,” said Mendez, a native of Honduras who migrated to the United States 36 years ago. She has three sons ages 30, 41, and 45.

JOB: Mendez used to work in the garment industry for a towel embroidery factory. “We used to work in Manhattan, then Hoboken, New Jersey and then moved to Brooklyn,” she said. “The company no longer exists.”

PROUDEST MOMENT: Mendez found pride in always being a member of a union. “I worked for only one company, and I always had a job that was secure with the union,” said Mendez. “I was able to work hard and get my kids ahead.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “One time I was having problems with the Social Security office and Congressmember Anthony Weiner was coming to MRNY, and I was able to meet him and tell him about my problem. He was able to help,” she said. “Later, on a visit to The White House with MRNY, the Congressmember recognized me and said ‘Hi.'”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Trying to keep up with technology is one of the biggest challenges that Mendez has. “I started taking computer classes. Before, I didn’t even know how to turn it [the computer] on. I’m learning, and I hope that by next year I can learn more,” said Mendez.

INSPIRATION: Besides the many inspiring people that she meets in MRNY, her sister has had the strongest influence on her. “My sister, Sandra, who works in Bank of Ponce De Leon and all of my brothers are prepared except me,” she said. “I dropped out of school when I was in the third grade. I always admired my sister, she didn’t really study for what she is doing, but she has managed to move up and do something with herself.”