San Diego Crispina Lopez de Galliano sits with her husband, Dean, writing a résumé at the Employment Development Department. Galliano, 37, is angry. She believes she lost her job as a cashier at the 32nd Street Commissary because of poor management and prejudice.
"They said I was short of money five times when I turned in my cashier's tray. They just told me, 'You're fired!' As a cashier, I wanted to count my money when they gave me my tray. They wouldn't let me count it. It was just, 'Come on! Come on!' " she snaps her fingers. " 'Don't even worry about counting your money! Just line in!' which means putting my money in and waiting on the customers. But I wanted to first count my money and make sure they gave me the right amount. I was responsible for it, and I wanted to make sure it's right! What really gets to me is when I was trying to close, and it was time for me to log out and go, and I was not allowed to count my money! It was just, 'Here's my money and it's up to you. I don't know if you put it in your pocket or what.' "
A native of Mexico, Lopez has lived in San Diego since 1980. "I started November 5 last year, and I was fired June 29 this year. They paid $10 an hour plus locality -- extra pay because it's so expensive to live in San Diego."
As Dean complains about the lack of accountability at her old job, Lopez continues her story. "One time the computer froze during a transaction. We had all kinds of customers, and the computer just froze, and you can't do anything when that happens; you can't even finish the sale. You have to cancel the sale, and the customer has to go get in a line. They'd restart the computer, and I'd ask, 'Aren't you going to count my money?' and they'd just say, 'Don't worry about it.' Later on, I was short. Every time you come up short, you get a write-up. They'll offer you more training, so I said, 'Yes, maybe you should give me more training, or maybe you can let me count my money.' "
Lopez had higher ambitions at the commissary. "The commissary is open seven days a week. First off, I was hired for 48 hours, every two weeks. I would get different shifts, then they cut my hours with no notice. They just said, 'We're going to drop you down to 32 hours every two weeks.' They just said it was the budget. My husband is on total disability, and I wanted to go to school while I was working there. I submitted a form to request morning shifts so I could go to school in the afternoons so I could get a better job in the future and do better. They said I didn't qualify. They said, 'You don't have the veteran's qualifying points,' and I told them that I qualified because of my husband's points, but they wouldn't let me go to school.
"They heard me speaking Spanish to a customer, and they told me that I couldn't speak Spanish on the job. But they're speaking Tagalog right in front of me! And they don't care if I hear it or not. They need to be more fair and hire with more equal employment. They should have a little bit of everything. Customers would ask me, 'Oh, you speak Spanish? It's so nice to have a cashier who speaks Spanish here!' "
Dean has more to say about the way his wife was treated. "She was a very hard worker and took her job seriously, and the commissary knew it. They used to call her all the time to come down on her day off, and she would be the first to be there." Lopez agrees. "Normally, I was working 40 hours a week, but I never got the benefits of 40 hours a week. I was hired as a part-time worker so they wouldn't have to pay me any benefits. Then they drop me down to 32 hours every two weeks, but they still called me in whenever they felt like it, so I worked 40 hours a week, but with no benefits."
Dean is also upset that she wasn't allowed to use his civil-service points. "I waived my civil-service preference so she could do it. Right now I'm the sole support of the family. We do have some savings, but we don't want to touch that. We started saving for our son's college before he was even born."
A nine-year-old son gives Lopez even more motivation to improve herself. "He goes to school, and I want to be working when he's in school. When he's out of school, I want to be able to help him and not leave Dean alone to do everything. Dean helps him out with his homework, but I like to be involved."
Dean's disability checks just cover their monthly bills. Unable to afford a house, they rent. "I would say our basic expenses are about $1400 a month. We don't really have any big debts." Lopez adds, "I get $220 every two weeks for unemployment, but that's only for 12 weeks. I've been collecting for 5 weeks now. They said they were going to talk to the people at 32nd Street, but I never heard what happened."
Even though she believes that they could get by if she remains unemployed, Lopez is anxious to get back to work. "I get really restless when I am not working or doing something with people. I've been out of work before. Before I went to work for the Navy, I worked at Rite-Aid. I was chased out of there by this big woman, she was, like, 300 pounds. She was in charge there, and I said, 'I gotta get out of here!' I worked for the post office, the same thing, part-time. After that I was out of work about six months."
Lopez's job-hunting plans are basic. "I'm just looking at websites on the Internet and the paper. I want a full-time, permanent job. I'm willing to be a cashier again or work in customer service, be a clerk. But when you're temporary, they just fire you."
If forced to live on Dean's disability checks long-term, Dean believes they will eventually be in serious trouble. "It's a hardship."