For our 52nd episode, we chat with Saba Waheed (@sabawaa) and Veena Hamparur (@ammalmani) of the UCLA Labor Center (@uclalabor) in MacArthur Park about Re:Work Radio (@rework_radio), a one-of-a-kind podcast and storytelling program by Saba and Veena centered on workers and worker’s rights in Los Angeles. Our talk is especially relevant for students and other independent storytellers out there looking for L.A. stories from people of color and their communities. Also, find out more about Re:Work Radio programing and its latest goings-on via Instagram and Twitter at @rework_radio.


L.A.’s Workers Are a Critical Mass


One month into steady work at Starbucks, and it turns out to be another page for the stories. I’ve met some great people, and in doing so have learned about a whole world’s worth of even more characters in the city of Los Angeles. Just what these characters are going to teach me will take more time to tell, but for now I know that they’ll be stories which will move others as they’ve moved me: stories of an absolutely integral part of L.A., whose contribution to the city’s movement subtly but aptly defy the markings of class which tend to separate so many people here.

Put simply, the people who work some of the toughest jobs in L.A. earn the least bit of money for their time. Yet there’s something about their acceptance of ‘a small part’ here that makes them bigger than their time or earnings. After all, what are millions of small parts combined? They form a ‘critical mass’, who move citygoers one grocery bag and frappuccino at a time.

They connect us to one another, even if only for a few minutes of the day. And so even if only for a moment, our lives come together in the community we so often idealize rather than actively tend to more often that not.

At Starbucks, I’ve got this opportunity to engage with the community. I can either welcome a customer to the store with warmth, or I can greet them passively, depending on how the day is going. In truth, I’m still learning, particularly from the way the more experienced servers alongside me approach the craft. Underneath every smile or quip is a philosophy about the world, and it’s a philosophy rooted in a lifetime of experiences much different from my own, yet similar enough for me to acknowledge.

At the end of the day, only one thing is clear: every human being is scaling a mountain of themselves. Every one of them is climbing through their own fears, and contending with their own doubts about how to get through the world.

Somewhere along the way, we meet each other through this, and at least for yours truly: it makes for a wonderful glimpse at other mountains, where there lie other failures, triumphs, and lessons to learn from as I continue with my own scaling. It’s no small feat to serve alongside this critical component of Los Angeles!