October 29, 2015
Martha Pineda worked for CODELEX, a cleaning company notorious for its disregard of workers’ rights—but which enjoys many lucrative contracts to clean government buildings. After receiving two labor rights trainings from Erika, an educator for the Labor Rights Project, she began encouraging coworkers to attend the trainings and learn their rights.
Then suddenly, she was dismissed from her job of five years. Martha knew it was against the law to be fired without just cause and decided to call Erika that night. The next day, Martha’s supervisor couldn’t believe she knew the exact amount of the severance benefits she was legally due, and that she was requesting it in full! But the supervisor said CODELEX would only give Martha a meager fraction of these benefits. “Take it or leave it,” the supervisor said.
Labor Rights Project staff accompanied Martha to the Labor Court, where they reported this violation. But before the scheduled hearing date, CODELEX, intimidated by Martha’s boldness, made her a new, much more favorable offer, which Martha accepted.
The severance benefits Martha received will see her and her family through until she can find new employment in Honduras’ tough labor market. But Martha has gained much more than money. The training she received did more than teach her about labor rights. It’s been designed to help women grow spiritually and improve often very low self-esteem by helping them to make good decisions, value who they are, and have confidence in who they can become.
It worked for Martha: she’s become a labor rights educator, working alongside Labor Rights Project staff to help women like her. “I talk to workers in a language they understand,” says Martha, smiling.
For Erika, seeing this transformation in Martha has been a true blessing: “My great privilege is to be training and telling these women, ‘You are created in the image of God, you are God’s creation. No matter how much money or power a person may have, no one can take this truth away from you,’” Erika says