Army veteran Mike Montalbano: “All workers need a decent wage to take care of their families.”
Mike Montalbano is a veteran of the U.S. Army with ten years of experience in the private security industry—yet his employer pays him only $13.96 per hour. Working in expensive Silicon Valley, Mike makes ends meet by living with his mother.
“I’m a caregiver for my 92-year-old mother,” Mike said. “She can’t see well. I have to be her eyes.”
Mike commutes from his mother’s two-bedroom apartment in Hayward, and helps buy her food. Even with this mutual support, scraping by in California is difficult. “Between my car payment and our food bills, the cost of living is taking a toll on me.”
Mike also dreams of being able to afford to rent his own place. “I feel I need to be independent after she passes. I’m ready to start looking at my life, too.”
Through military experience and training, veterans have learned valuable skills, cultivated a strong work ethic, and have developed a sense of pride in protecting people and property.
“Serving in the military is prior experience for the security industry. You have regular guard duty,” Mike said. “Veterans are sharp, we make sure we do our job.”
Yet it’s difficult for many veterans to find good jobs in today’s economy, which has become increasingly unbalanced by underpaid service-sector jobs.
Mike and his fellow security officers are combating that trend by organizing their union in Silicon Valley. “We are trying to get an increase just to stay alive, and to do better in our lives,” he says. The officers have already succeeded in convincing Apple and Google to phase out an irresponsible security contractor in favor of stable, full-time jobs for the officers who protect their campuses.
Now they are setting their sights on the rest of the Valley, and standing with janitors, fast food workers, child care providers and airport workers in the Fight for $15. “$15 and union rights is what we all want. As a veteran, I should be able to take care of my mother. All workers need a decent wage to take care of their families.”