Martin Ayala

El Super

Martín Ayala has had a diverse life. The mild mannered 46 year old single father with full custody of 5 had once studied and dreamed of being an engineer in Mexico. He started working at the tender age of 9 to support his family before immigrating to the U.S. and has worked numerous jobs including hospitality, Asian markets, and for the LA Convention Center.

He landed at El Super, where he has loyally worked for 5 years. Martín works for the Slauson grocery store in his neighborhood of South Los Angeles. He is lucky because his store is one of the unionized El Super markets, as many of the later stores the company acquired are not covered by union contracts. Due to the union representation at his store, he has been able to speak up about the problems he and his colleagues face.

What Martín has experienced was a deeply embedded system of corrupt favoritism. Similar to his experience growing up in Mexico, he has seen it reincarnate into the management of El Super. Promotions have been given to the relatively inexperienced, but well connected, including family and friends of management. He received a raise according to his contract but never saw it actually paid in his check—only after his union intervened did he receive his back pay.

Most egregiously, cases have run rampant of infected and sick colleagues showing up for work at his store. Since none of the workers at El Super get any paid sick time off, many are required to come in. Others simply cannot afford the pay lost from missing a day of work. Martín is one of those workers, but what’s worse is that he works in the meat department as a butcher. On an annual basis, like a set of dominoes, he has seen his whole department get sick when one of them gets sick. He has seen the horrors of coworkers not change their gloves or wipe their noses on their sleeves before helping customers.

Martín has since become a leader at his store after all of the workplace abuses he has experienced. He has also become more involved in community organizations, such as SCOPE, in increasing healthy food access within his neighborhood.