Sat. May 21st, 2022

Jennifer Alcantar
Cashier, Super A Foods Grocery Store
Being here at the grocery store, we are front line. We had customers come in here, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I have COVID, but I’m fine.’ . . . It makes me upset, thinking they can not wear their masks just to come and shop for their groceries for like 20 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, but yet I’m standing in the store for 9 hours, and having my mask is not optional for me.[Photo: Sam Comen]

Those images, which include workers from 15 industries and dozens more jobs, are now on exhibit at the Museum of Art & History Lancaster in Lancaster, California; the show will run through August 21. More than three-quarters of the people photographed are represented by labor unions in Southern California, including the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, a major partner in coordinating interviews. As the pandemic raged on, those unions were helping workers push for stronger pay and job protections. Their message was clear: “Look at what’s happening,” Comen says. “These are our neighbors, our fellow Americans. And how are we treating them? [They’re] standing up despite the odds at great personal risk. ”

Carlos Arevalo, Jason Calixto, Esbeida Refugio, and Ray Miller
Custodial Staff, Los Angeles County + USC Hospital
The custodians responsible for cleaning and decontaminating LAC + USC Hospital understand that their work is of critical importance. Jason Calixto (second from left) said, “The burden falls on us to protect not only staff, but society, our community, and the public. We have to do everything that we can to protect everybody that comes into the hospital, those that visit the hospital, ourselves, and our families as well. I’ve stayed away from my extended family for 5 months. ” [Photo: Sam Comen]
Amado Montejo
Port of Los Angeles Trucker
I lost my brother in Guatemala to COVID on January 6. I kept working because, you know, life goes on, and you have to keep going, even though you are not 100% mentally. I thought about going to Guatemala. I was not able to, because I would have to quarantine myself when I arrived in Guatemala, so why was I even going? And then when I returned, I would have to quarantine again. So, no. [Photo: Sam Comen]
Vince Mena, Dale Smith, Kristina “Kady” Kepner, and Brandon Terrazas
City of Los Angeles Fire Department Firefighters
Photographed at Station 3 in Downtown LA
Because Los Angeles County has a public health department but the City of Los Angeles does not, the mayor asked the fire department to assist with the development of COVID testing sites. Kady Kepner (second from right), Assistant Chief, oversaw that initiative. She shared, “It has definitely been a challenge for all of us, as it has for everyone. We’ve had to implement new protocols, policies, and a whole bunch of new and innovative ways to continue to be able to do our job and provide exceptional customer service to the communities that we serve. ” [Photo: Sam Comen]
Rebecca Melchor, Sandra Ceja, and Karina Franco
Surgical Technologist and RNs, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
Rebecca Melchor (left) is a surgical technologist in the Labor and Delivery Operating Room at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where some of the pregnant patients have tested positive for COVID. She said, “I was part of the first crash COVID C-section that we had. It was an emergency C-section, life and death. Sometimes you feel uneasy. I mean, it’s something you feel like you have to do, though. Nobody else is going to do it. We can not turn a patient away, just because she has COVID. If she’s a pregnant patient, we’re gonna take care of her. ” [Photo: Sam Comen]

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