21 January 2016
BY CASEY EK
WASHINGTON—Battling injustice against Latinos for Martin Maldonado, a freshmen in American University’s School of Public Affairs, stems from his family history he says
Maldonado, 19, is half Chilean and half Cuban. His father’s family fled Chile after the 1973 coup that led to political and social unrest. His mother’s family faced similar circumstances when they fled Cuba to escape Fidel Castro’s rise to power. His parents settled in Miami, from which Maldonado hails. Maldonado draws his passion for Exploited Wonk, a workers’ rights advocacy group, from his family history.
“My intentions for joining Exploited Wonk came from an awareness for abuses on campus,” Maldonado said. “I grew up very aware of human abuses.”
Maldonado’s relationship with Exploited Wonk and the group’s curator senior Carlos Vera began last fall after Maldonado was elected Vice President of Advocacy for Anderson Hall, Maldonado said.
“I saw some of the work Carlos had done calling out administration to get them to notice racist posts and alumnus was posting,” Maldonado said. “I kept looking and saw that he had been involved with the custodial staff, so I reached out.”
Vera has named Maldonado his likely successor.
“Carlos and I come from similar backgrounds, and because of that we come from a similar place in the way we see opportunity, justice and fairness,” Maldonado said.
Since 2011, the Exploited Wonk campaign has worked to uncover the ‘injustices’ workers at American University face, according to the Campaign website. Many of these worker face abuses because of their ethnicity, according to Maldonado.
“We’re worried about the situation with the custodial workers,” he said. “I blame it on the language barrier.”
The Exploited Wonk website tells the story of Rosa, a custodial worker who unknowingly signed her letter of resignation due to her not being able to read English, according to the website.
“A lot of these abuses go unnoticed, and the administration has gotten away with them,” Maldonado said.
Although there are numerous accounts of abuses by Aramark, the labor contracting company American University employs, Moldonado says, Exploited Wonk understands the need for accuracy when striving for administrative reform.
“One has to always keep in mind that testimonials can only be reliable to a certain degree,” Maldonado said. “We make a strong effort to make sure our information, especially quantitative, is accurate.”
With the founder of Exploited Wonk graduating this spring, Moldonado faces the challenge of keeping the organization thriving.
“I can do only so much with what I have to work with. Even if people get involved for the wrong reasons, they still should,” He said, “These are peoples’ lives.”