By ALLEY COWGILL
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
Picture the home field of the Port Isabel Tarpons. It’s Friday night and the stands are roaring with shouts of, “Go Big Blue!” Looking out at the gridiron, running across the field with the Tarpon flag is Mario Alberto Salinas.
Salinas was a cheerleader for the Tarpons and graduated from Port Isabel High School in 1992. Since graduating, Salinas has taken off to conquer the world. Literally. Salinas became a flight attendant in 1997, and has recently been invited to the National Memorial for United Flight 93, one of the four planes hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
The story begins in July 2015; the labor union for United Airlines decided to hold a Worldwide Day of Action, which is where flight attendants gathered to picket for labor contracts that have been in limbo since United’s merger with Continental Airlines five years ago. “Every single base and hub was going to participate in the World Wide Day of Action, but there was nothing in Houston,” Salinas said.
Houston is one of the largest hubs. “We need to do something here. Houston is the gateway to the world,” Salinas said. “It’s a hub that is worth of representation. From Los Angeles, to Guam to London, everyone was doing something.”
After a nightmare of corporate red tape, Salinas decided to singlehandedly organize a, “picket not a protest” in Houston for a Day of Action of his own. “I set to social media and explained what I planned on doing and I got a rather large response from supporters. I focused on getting the message out there. That was my goal: to educate as many people as I could so they would want to be involved.”
“People even referred to me as the modern day ‘Norma Rae’ but I didn’t do it to get any recognition. I just didn’t want to be left behind! I was tired of being separated at a time when we need to stand together as one. United,” Salinas said passionately.
The picket was a success, drawing around 100 people, and even caught the attention of the labor union in Washington, D.C. That was when International representative, Ingrid Vasquez personally invited Salinas to attend the memorial.
“I’ve never been to the memorial. I’m very emotional and thankful that they have recognized me and I’m very humbled to be there to represent my own,” Salinas said
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