(Ed: Back in February of 2009 we conducted an interview with a housekeeper named Ana Ramirez. We thought we would repost it today. To be clear, the first 24 comments below were made the when this piece was first posted.)
Ana Ramirez is a housekeeper with clients in Sierra Madre. She works very hard and for a lot less money than it would take to live here. It is a difficult life, and you need to ask yourself how many of the people that you know could survive if somehow the roles were reversed. Ana impresses you as being a kind and forthright person, someone you could come to think of as a friend. She is paid "off the books," something that makes her subject to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people. The purpose of this interview is to allow her to describe such an instance. Ana speaks little English, and this conversation was made possible by the kind assistance of an interpreter.
Tattler: Ana, thank you for taking the time to talk with us this morning. I understand that your health has not been so very good lately.
Ana Ramirez: Yes, I was taken to the hospital recently. The doctors aren't quite sure what the problem is and they did a lot of tests. The results should be in soon. I expect to have some of them Monday.
Tattler: Our prayers are with you, and we hope for only the best possible news.
Ana: Thank you.
Tattler: How did you first come to work for (Mountain Views-Observer publisher) Susan Henderson, a resident of some note here in Sierra Madre?
Ana: I was introduced to Miss Henderson by someone I was working for at the time. I believe it was either late in 2006 or at the beginning of 2007.
Tattler: When you first went to work for Susan, what were your experiences with her?
Ana: At the beginning I was treated very well. There were no problems. The checks she paid me with were easily cashed by the bank. I worked one day a week, usually Monday, and I was paid $125 for cleaning her house. Miss Henderson liked my work from the start and soon raised my pay to $130 per day. And then she raised my pay again, to $500 per month, with still no problem cashing the checks.
Tattler: But things did change, right? When did you first notice that things were starting to go wrong?
Ana: After 3 months or so, when I would take Miss Henderson's checks to the bank, the bank would return them to me saying there was not sufficient funds to pay me. I would take the checks back to Miss Henderson and tell her. She would give me partial cash and promise to pay the rest to me later. This condition lasted for a year. I got very tired of it and I told her that I can't stand this anymore. The bank keeps returning the checks and you won't pay me what you owe me. I have lost other clients, people who wanted me to work for them who would pay me what they owe me. You either stop this or I will go.
Tattler: What were your experiences working parties for Susan?
Ana: I didn't work a lot of them. The one that does come to mind was a 4th of July party. I cleaned her house the day before and the next day I worked at the party.
Tattler: And you were paid for that work?
Ana: Yes. $250 for the 2 days.
Tattler: Who was at that party?
Ana: It was for the people who work for her newspaper. And some of her friends that she plays golf with. And other friends.
Tattler: So you were nickel and dimed, and it continued for a year. And then you quit. How much money does Susan Henderson owe you right now?
Tattler: And when you try to collect that money, how does she respond?
Ana: When I call to Miss Henderson's house on the phone, she will not pick up the call. She sees that it is my number. When I call from a different number that she doesn't know Miss Henderson will pick up, and then tell me that she doesn't have the money and doesn't care that I need to have the money.
Tattler: Your son Mario has called on your behalf. He is bilingual and speaks English. When he calls to try and collect the money, what does Susan say?
Ana: She says "Me no money!" and hangs up.
Tattler: Me no money?
Ana: Yes. And hangs up.
Tattler: To my ears that sounds offensive. Do you have the same impression?
Ana: No, I don't believe it is offensive. But she is annoyed when I call, and she tells me to stop calling, that she doesn't have the money.
Tattler: You are kinder than I would be under those circumstances.
Ana: My sister has called her, and Miss Henderson tells her that she has no right to call her. Only Mario can call her now. And when Mario calls she hangs up the phone on him.
Tattler: Have you confronted her personally?
Ana: I have gone to her door, and when I knock on the door nobody will answer. Miss Henderson's car will be in the driveway, and I know that there are people home, but nobody will come to the door. And even while I was working for her, and she owed me a lot of money, she would take vacations to Hawaii and Rosarito Beach. She would always have lots of money to do that.
Tattler: Thank you for doing this interview, Ana.
Ana: Thank you.