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Editor’s note: In this interview, our contributor Jennifer López speaks with her mother, an employee at a fast-food restaurant, about how her life has changed since the COVID-19 emergency was declared. This English-language version is an edited translation. You can listen to the whole interview in Spanish here:
BOYLE HEIGHTS BEAT: ¿Can you tell me your name?
MARÍA CAMPOS: My name is María Campos.
BHB: And your age?
MC: I’m 47 years old.
BHB: What type of work do you do?
MC: I’ve worked at a McDonald’s now for 20 years. I’m a cashier at a McDonalds, I work the graveyard shift.
BHB: Can you describe to me, in detail, what it was like to go to work before COVID-19?
MC: Yes, it was easier before. Right now it’s dangerous because unknown people come and you never know if they could be sick. You now have to wear a face mask, it’s mandatory, and sometimes I stop to think it would be best not to go to work so that I can’t come and infect my family here… but I don’t know what’s hardest – losing my job or making sure that we are all safe here. Because it’s dangerous out there.
BHB: And how was your job before COVID?
MC: Before I could sometime go on the bus, everything was ok, not now, because sometimes the bus is full and you don’t know who’s sitting next to you. Before you didn’t get to work and didn’t have to worry about maybe running into a sick person. Right now you have to wash your hand constantly, every time you collect a payment… it’s not like every 10 minutes like before, it’s when you handle money, you have to go wash your hands, when you touch anything, you wash your hands, when you put in an order, wash your hands…
BHB: And besides washing your hands constantly –in which other ways is your job any different during the pandemic?
“Sometimes I think it would be best not to go to work so that I can’t come and infect my family here… but I don’t know what’s hardest – losing my job or making sure that we are all safe here. Because it’s dangerous out there.”
MC: Well, right now we are not opening the lobby but the drive thru is very busy and they are protecting us more… we have to use the face masks. At the other McDonald’s they’re going on strike because they don’t want to provide their employees with gloves and face masks. We are being provided with face masks and gloves. And we also don’t have a lot of contact with customers. Before we could take walk-up orders but now they are telling us that we cant take walk-ups, when someone comes up to the window, we can’t sell to them. Only those in cars in the drive-thru.
BHB: And does that make you feel safer, with the lobby closed, only drive-thru, or do you feel the same?
MC: I feel a little safer, but not one hundred percent, because people still come and some are not wearing face masks and you never know how they are.
BHB: What is your daily routine and how has that changed because of COVID-19?
BHB: Your daily life, not necessarily at work.
MC: Well, before I was free to go out, I could walk to the market, but now I don’t go out. I stay here at home, I go out only when necessary, but I don’t go out for instance to go get a coffee or something. Not anymore. So it’s changed, a lot, because I’m locked in here and I stress out. Yes, I feel stressed, I can’t go out, I think about my children, I think that they can’t…. well I think about keeping them from getting infected.
BHB: Even if they don’t go out.
MC: Even if you don’t go out, but yes… I stress because I don’t want us to get infected or something.
MC: I go out much less, I don’t get on the bus. Face masks. We use face masks, gloves, when we go out. We disinfect everything and, yes, every time we use something we have to wash it.
BHB: What do you worry about, working in times of this disease?
MC: I worry because a lot of different people go there every day, it’s not like it’s the same people every day, and I worry because you don’t know the people. At some jobs, they take the temperature of customers before they… not at my job, we can’t be taking a customer’s temperature to see if they’re sick. That, that’s my concern.
BHB: And how does it feel to know that some people get to work at home, but you unfortunately can’t?
MC: Well, yes, it would have been a lot easier that I could also work from home, but unfortunately my job is not the kind of work that you could do at home, but I thank God that I have a job. But I also worry, because we go out and people come, different people every time, a lot of people and, yes, that worries me.
BHB: Are you perhaps worried about maybe losing your job, or something like that?
MC: Yes, sometimes I do worry about losing my job, because sometimes people say they’re going to completely shut down… and I do worry because I have children to… we have to eat, we have to pay rent, utilities…
BHB: How would your family be affected if you were to lose your job?
MC: Well it would greatly affect me and my family because, unfortunately I… I’m very used to working. I’ve always worked. Even when I got pregnant and had my children, a month after giving birth I would return to work. And, yes, it would affect us a lot because of the rent, the bills, and because of them. They need to eat. We also need to eat, the clothes…
BHB: What is the worse part of your day in these times?
MC: Well, practically all day, because I’m locked in here and it makes me… I start thinking and it makes me sad, to see all these people getting sick… all day I’m sad, thinking about all the people and I thank God that we have work, we have a home where we have food to eat and there’s lot of… well, health, we have health, which is the most important thing.
BHB: What part is more of less well?
MC: What’s well with us is that, thank God, we didn’t lose our jobs like many people lost their jobs, lots of people were unable to pay their rent, lots of people who could not pay their utilities and… that’s what I give thanks to God for, that we still have work, that my children are well and not getting sick, health is what I’m most grateful to God for, that we have health.
BHB: What did you think of the stimulus check, when they started to talk about that?
MC: Well, it was a great help for many people, but not enough. It’s about the earnings from one two-week pay period, almost, but… yes, it’s a great help for those people who got that..
BHB: Do you know anyone who has lost their job but did not get any kind of help?
MC: Yes I do… my brother, he lost his job, completely, and he has a son and no, he hasn’t received any kind of help.
BHB: How does that make you feel?
MC: I feel sad because he’s not getting anything.
BHB: They’re now talking about getting help through something called CalEITC. Do you have information about that?
MC: Yes, I got him the phone number and he called and… hopefully he can get some assistance there because it’s hard. We’re used to always working. He gets more desperate, because he used to work 12 hours a day. Right now he’s not working at all, but I gave him the information and he’s already called.
BHB: Then you would say that you feel that you are being helped at work, in comparison to other companies.
MC: Yes, I do feel like they are helping us, even if it’s just by giving us work. I have heard about some companies that are giving their employees extra money and… I’m happy that they are still giving me my hours, they haven’t cut back my hours, no cut back.
BHB: That’s good. Anything else you’d like to say, any other concern?
MC: No, well… just that there is a lot of people who lost their job and that worries me because there are going to be a lot of people… what I say is a lot of people who get sad because they’ve lost their jobs and some who don’t even know how they will pay their rent or utilities.
BHB: Have you received any kind of assistance?
MC: No, just my job. But since I’ve been working the same hours, no, no help. But I haven’t received any other type of assistance.
BHB: Do you want to say anything else?
MC: Well, yes, that there are a lot of people helping a lot, some people giving out food, and that’s good. Also, like in schools, that children go get their food, that way there’s less stress for you.
BHB: It’s just about making sure people are informed.
MC: Yes, that people are informed about where they can get food, the food banks.
BHB: Yes, because there is help, it’s a matter of being informed.
MC: Being informed.