Political refugee from Cuba says finding a permanent job is a challenge — even after 36 years
Who is Louis Rodriguez?
Race / ethnicity (self identify): Cuban
Resident: North Side of Syracuse, New York
Job status: Unemployed
Brief work history: Cooking for restaurants; maintenance; asbestos removal
Education level: High school diploma
Special skill: Asbestos removal
Number of children: 0
Number of people living in household: 1
A sit down with Louis Rodriguez
Q: What is your area of expertise?
A: My main job is asbestos removal, with food service as my second choice. I cook, I have a food service certificate. I know how to cook. I know how to work in maintenance. I know how to shampoo and clean floors. But you know it’s difficult. It’s difficult to find a job in Syracuse.
Q: How long have you been in Syracuse?
A: I’m a political refugee from Cuba. I came from Miami. I lived in Miami for seven months back in 1980, and I came into Syracuse on Aug. 6, 1980. I’ve been here 36 years. But in the meantime, I’ve been living in New York, I’ve been living in L.A. I’ve been working in these places. But I’m still living here.
Q: Right now, you’re not working?
A: I’m looking for a job.
Q: What about your work in asbestos removal?
A: In 2010 I went to the asbestos course. (Asbestos removal is) the job I do most of the time but I don’t have the money for getting re-certified.
Q: What was your last job?
A: I’ve been doing different work for restaurants … like 18 to 22 hours a week. Small hours, you know. I like working 40 to 45.
Q: Do you have food services training?
A: In 2008 I went to the food services in Johnson school (Johnson Center / Adult Education, part of the Syracuse City School District) on East Genesee.
Q: Where do you live?
A: I stay at the Rescue Mission. And I came in (La Liga) and they’re trying to help me out, and I really appreciate that.
Q: How do you get around?
A: Transportation be really, really hard. I be doing long walks most of the time.
Q: Tell me about your family.
A: My family is in Cuba. I’ve been married in the United States twice, and I’ve been divorced twice. My lady, I’m not living with her now because her apartment is too small for us. I’m not used to being in a place like this (Rescue Mission). ... And I was looking for a job because I wasn’t used to being in a place like this. ... I got a bunch of stuff in the church, the Catholic church on North Salina. ... Because I’m in the shelter, I can’t keep my TV and all that stuff so I got it down there in the basement.
Q: Were you considering leaving and going anywhere else, or going back to Cuba?
A: No, not really, no. I’m pretty familiar with the area, I know a bunch of people. I was working before in Red Lobster back in 1988 and back in this seafood restaurant that was on Erie Boulevard. ... They’ve been closed almost about 21, 22 years. I worked in Miami in a Doubletree Hotel. ... I worked from August 6, 2003 to 2005 and I got divorced down there. I came here in 2009. … I was working here in a big clam bar, Hinerwadel's. It was catering, they throw big parties. It’s a clam bar, it’s a big place. A lot of companies have parties and different celebrations there. And graduations because it’s a big place. This is a seasonal job. You have to apply every year. A lot of students working there. ... As soon as it starts to be a little warm, the second, third week of May. ... I know their owner and the manager. I go down there and I get hired right away … but it’s only seasonal because of the weather. Because people can’t enjoy the dance and music in the cold weather.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: Places to live. Working a steady, permanent job.
Q: What do you want people to know about you as an unemployed person?
A: I want them to know I’m a hardworking person, I’m reliable, I’m (good at teamwork) and I always try my best and put forth the best part of me for the company, and I be the best I can be and supply the best I can give to society and to the new generation to come.
Q: What gives you hope?
A: I’m a pretty spiritual person ... my intensity and my tenacity always increases you know. I’ve been through all kinds of challenges in my life: coming here to this country myself, getting married. ... I’m always keeping forward and being the best I can be.
Q: What makes you discouraged?
A: I’m always motivated for the next day to take these opportunities always. … You really, really gotta take advantage of what life offers you. You will be successful. You got to always keep the faith that you will achieve your goals. You just always gotta keep it going and go straight through with your desire and determination and you will accomplish what you wish. ... I kinda avoid being surrounded by negativity. ... I’ve been into health and keeping my body in shape. People say how are you 60 and looking like this, and you have all this energy. And I say I got a lot of energy and I take care of myself pretty good.
Q: What do you do with your free time?
A: Most of the time I be looking for work and I do some research in the library. I’m always trying to research about health. And I’m always trying to be positive. I like to watch a lot of sports. I’m a sports fanatic. I don’t have bad habits. I hardly drink. I don’t smoke cigarettes. And I’ve never used drugs at all. I’m into health and hygiene. My teeth gotta be really clean, my nails. Like in my apartment my lady always says to me that your apartment is better than any woman. ... I like to be organized.
Q: What is the job you’d like to have now?
A: I prefer asbestos because you work in a lot of different places in the country and they pay really good. And I got a lot of experience. Food service is OK, too, but asbestos is better because I like a good sense of life. And they pay really good. So I can save better and create a better life for me and my lady.
Q: Is that your dream job?
If you’ve been following this series by Inspiration for the Nation, it’s now a good time to take stock of your level of financial preparedness, particularly in today’s uncertain business/political climate.