Staff Spotlight: Ericka Martynovych

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"The working class is powerful. We can create change and it doesn’t always have to be like this."

– Ericka Martynovych, SOMCAN's Workers Program Coordinator


Meet Ericka Martynovych, SOMCAN’s Workers Program Coordinator. Originally from Seattle, Ericka moved to San Francisco to pursue a graduate degree in Urban and Public Affairs. While she was completing her studies, she took on a planning internship with SOMCAN. After a stint with the Bayanihan Equity Center as a Housing Specialist and volunteering to collect oral histories in the SOMA Pilipinas Filipino Cultural Heritage District through StoryCorps, she rejoined SOMCAN as a full-time staff member.

Kapitbahay Times recently sat down to interview Ericka about her new post:

KT: What does your job as Workers Program Coordinator consist of?

EM: I coordinate SOMCAN’s Workers Program. Our program has two major components. The first is the direct services that we provide, including job search assistance, resume-building, skills trainings, and job referrals. The second part is doing outreach, educating workers about labor laws, and helping workers file claims when their rights are not being met including connecting them to lawyers when they faced with workers’ rights violations. I also work closely in coalitions with other community-based organizations in San Francisco doing similar work.

KT: Tell us a bit about the background of SOMCAN’s Workers Program.

EM: SOMCAN’s Workers Program was created out of the needs of the SOMA community. In the past, SOMCAN was a part of organizing for the Formula Retail Workers Bill of Rights and the Fight for $15 minimum wage, and has worked in solidarity with hotel workers fighting for their rights.

As we move forward, we want elected officials and developers to be accountable for the need of quality jobs for the community with the goal of strengthening local hiring, which includes retention and promotion.

KT: How did you first get involved with SOMCAN?

EM: My first involvement with SOMCAN was through an internship in 2016. I was working towards a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs, which had an internship requirement. I knew that I wanted to do work with immigrant communities and was referred to SOMCAN. The focus of my internship was on the strategic plan for SOMA Pilipinas, the Filipino Cultural Heritage District. I attended countless committee meetings including identifying and surveying workers in the area to find out what are their barriers to stable employment and job advancement. I also played key roles in the partnership between SOMA Pilipinas and StoryCorps, resulting in the recording of around 50 oral histories from Filipino community members in SOMA. Through this process, I decided to stay in San Francisco.

I was born in the Philippines and spent the majority of my life in Seattle, WA. Since moving to San Francisco almost four years ago I have formed my own identity as Filipino-American, discovered a sense of place, and have established my passion for community organizing.

KT: What are some things you enjoy most about your job?

EM: The thing that I enjoy most about my job is the relationships that I have gained. I am able to build relationships with people doing different but also similar work as SOMCAN through our coalitions.

Something that I am excited for about my job is that I am able to be a resource for others. Before and during college, I had worked many various minimum-wage and part-time jobs and I would have definitely benefited from knowing my own workers rights. I am so grateful to be in a position to support community members.

KT: How do you foresee the program growing and expanding in the future?

EM: I am planning to expand our outreach for workers rights and services. We want to ensure that folks in SOMA know that they can come to SOMCAN for workers issues and assistance. I’m also working closely with large and small businesses to identify skills they are looking for so we can get these jobs filled with workers from the community.

We are planning an afterschool training pilot program for Transitional Age Youth (TAY). This program will provide participants with the training and experience needed to work in afterschool programs. It can be difficult to get hired for this type of job without the training, and it is challenging to learn this on-the-job. Along with being trained on becoming afterschool program teachers, I will assist the participants with their resumes, the application process, prepare them for job interviews, and have a list of places they can already submit their resumes to. The goal is for the participants to gain employment in their community.

KT: Please talk about the various coalitions and collaborations that SOMCAN is a part of.

EM: We are a part of the Workers Rights Community Collaborative, this is where we work together to provide support around workers rights. I can assist workers in filing claims if their rights are not being met, and if legal assistance is needed I can refer them for further legal help.

We are also a part of the Good Jobs For All Collaborative, where we work with other organizations in SF that focus on access to employment. We are negotiating for quality jobs for those that face barriers to employment. This includes targeted hiring for entry-level jobs to prioritize disadvantaged residents of the South of Market, and secondly of the city overall. After being hired, we want employers to strive to retain and promote employees.

Last but not least, we are also a member of Jobs with Justice, an alliance of labor, community, faith-based, and student organizations working together to build a strong, progressive movement for economic and social justice, both locally and nationally.

KT: If someone needs help with a resume, advice regarding harassment in the workplace, or whatever else they are dealing with, how can they get a hold of you?

EM: You can call the office at (415) 255-7693, email me at emartynovych@somcan.org, or stop by our office at 1110 Howard Street. I am generally available from 10AM–6PM, but can be flexible. Our services are available in English, Filipino, and Spanish.

Download the Workers Program flier:

May 2019TJ Basa