Brenda and Jeff Schroeder are married couple who both work at the factory of Canadian-based bus manufacturer New Flyer Industries in St. Cloud, MN.
Jeff grew up in the small town of Willmar, MN, and Brenda was born in Guatemala and lived in California before moving to Marshall, MN. The couple has found happiness in each other, in St. Cloud, in their union, Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7304, and in their jobs at New Flyer. “We wanted to buy a house and we wanted to buy it at a place where we had more job opportunities.”
Brenda is especially happy at her job at New Flyer because she previously had a terrible job working at a chicken-processing plant called a Gold’n Plump. She says she had only one minute to process an entire chicken, the production lines were constantly speeded up, she normally worked 10 hour days. “One time I got sick and I asked my boss if I could use the bathroom, and he said I need to clock out.”
“I wasn’t made to be a slave,” Brenda says. “When you go from Gold’n Plump to New Flyer, you go from hell to heaven.”
At Gold’n Plump, Brenda says, “when they know the union wants to get in, they do meeting after meeting,” telling workers that “we’re all a family” and other lies meant to dissuade workers from forming a union.
The couple is much happier now that they are both working at New Flyer and proud members of CWA Local 7304. Brenda works on the “audit line” part of the factory which quality-checks subcomponents of the buses, while Jeff works in the “warehouse section” where parts are sorted and distributed to different parts of the production line. The parts come from “all over,” Jeff says, including the “wire harnesses are made in Indonesia, and arrive wrapped in special plastic so the seawater doesn’t corrode it.”
They both work hard at New Flyer, but feel fulfilled by the work. The couple has four children ranging in age from a toddler to a 14 year old, so the couple says, “we’ll take as much overtime as possible.”
Their jobs at New Flyer enable them to provide a good life for their kids. Every year, New Flyer hosts a “a kids Christmas party where they do a lot of activities, and let them ride the bus. That’s pretty cool.” The family took a vacation to Los Angeles in 2006 and took their kids to Disneyland.
Someday, Brenda says her hope for her kids is “that they go to college and graduate. Work in an office.”