I came to the U.S. from Sudan in late 2018. I was a doctor back in my country, but to practice here I have to take several medical exams first. I decided to work at the airport as a wheelchair attendant to save money and study.
When I started out, we were paid $10.20 an hour and with the cost of living in Denver, it was not enough. It was nearly impossible to work this position, study for my exams, and pay my bills. It took almost 6 months to find the time and money just to take my first exam.
Something had to change. I started organizing a union at the airport. I collected petitions from my co-workers and we took them to our manager together. We rallied and marched, we went on strike, and we went to City Hall. At the company I was working at, we won our union and we pushed the Mayor and City Council to pass an ordinance that raises wages for ALL airport workers to $15 an hour by 2021.
I saw the results immediately. Soon after we won, my pay went up to $11.20. A few months later, it went up to $13. Those raises made a big change in my life.
Everything changed in just one year. Before, I had to work full-time just to pay the rent. Now, I work part time so I can spend more time studying. After we won, I took my second and third exams. It was so awesome for me because I couldn’t do that before.
Now I’m financially stable, I can pay the fees to take my exams, and I’m getting closer to being a doctor. I only have one last exam to take before I can apply for a residency program.
I have seen that when we fight, we win the changes we need. Now I work with a different company at the airport and I’m fighting for a union there. We all won a raise, but we still don’t have sick days or vacation days. That’s why I’m fighting for a union. We’ll keep fighting until we win our rights.