Brenda Martinez Shroeder is an audit line worker at the New Flyer Industries bus factory in St. Cloud, MN.
Brenda was born in Guatemala and lived in California before moving to Willmar, Minnesota, where she met her husband Jeff. The couple then moved to St. Cloud because, “we wanted to buy a house and we wanted to buy it at a place where we had more job opportunities.”
Brenda first found work at a chicken-processing plant called a Gold’n Plump. Conditions were terrible. She had only one minute to process an entire chicken, the production lines were constantly speeded up, and she normally worked 10 hour days. “One time I got sick and I asked the lead if I could use the bathroom,” Brenda remembers. “He sent me to my break and said I needed to clock out. Later on, when everyone else went on break, I had to stay and make up the work.”
At Gold’n Plump, Brenda says, “when they know the union wants to get in, they do meeting after meeting,” telling workers that “we’re all a family” and other lies meant to dissuade workers from forming a union and bargaining collectively for better wages and working conditions.
“I wasn’t made to be a slave,” Brenda says. “When you go from Gold’n Plump to New Flyer, you go from hell to heaven.”
Brenda is much happier now that she and Jeff both work at New Flyer and are proud members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7304. Brenda works on the “audit line” part of the factory which quality-checks subcomponents of the buses, while Jeff works in the “warehouse section” where parts are sorted and distributed to different parts of the production line.
Brenda and Jeff have four children ranging in age from a toddler to a 14 year old, so she says, “we take as much overtime as possible.”
Their jobs at New Flyer enable them to provide a good life for their kids. Every year, New Flyer hosts “a kids Christmas party where they do a lot of activities, and let them ride the bus. That’s pretty cool.” The family took a vacation to Los Angeles in 2006 and took their kids to Disneyland.
Brenda’s dream for her kids is “that they go to college and graduate. Work in an office.”