Denice walked into the garage for the SD-LA sanitation department at 5:30 in the morning. Workers were changing into cover-alls out in the open as they got ready for working through the heat of the day. Most of them were running commando-mode and few of them noticed a woman walking through their ranks in the dim light.
There was a portable amplifier in the center of the garage. Denice walked up to it, picked up the mic and turned it on.
“Buenos Dios” she started.
Continuing in Spanish, she introduced herself. “I am Denice Delarosa. I work in administration. I am new at this job. You have been authorized twenty minutes of overtime. Please stop what you are doing and listen.”
“You can tell the health and prosperity of a society by what they throw away and by how much they throw away.” Denice said.
“Are you picking up more garbage today than you were a month ago, two months ago, a half year ago, a year ago?” she asked. Surprisingly, several of the workers were happy to answer her.
“More trash now, better, than a month ago. Still much less than a year ago. We are worried that you will cut workers. You probably would have already except the streets are so broken up that it is taking longer and longer to run the routes.”
Denice asked “How many of you here are related to other people in Sanitation.” Nearly every person in Sanitation had other family working there as well.
Denice observed, “It is good when we can find jobs for our families, as long as the people we recommend can do the job. Otherwise, we embarrass our families. We might be able to fool the bosses but we can never fool our co-workers.”
Then Denice held a straw-poll. She pointed at a random worker. “Where are you from?” she asked.
“Quinicuena, Oaxaca” the man answered.
“Who else is from Quinicuena” Denice asked. Several hands went up.
By randomly pointing and asking, Denice was able to determine that most of the men responsible for keeping the streets of SD-LA clean and free of vermin were from five or six regions of Oaxaca, Mexico.
“Thank-you for your time and attention.” Denice said. “You are a credit to Cali. You are a credit to Mexico. You are a credit to your cities and villages. I thank you for the work that you do. All I ask is that when you recommend family members for work that they be as diligent as you are.”
Municipal workers, as a rule, are a cynical lot. It would take more than fifteen minutes of talking to convince them that Denice was any different than all the others before her.
But, and this is a very big but, none of the others had turned out at 5:30 in the morning and paid them twenty minutes of over-time. Talk is cheap. Money in the paycheck is real.