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VALERIE FOWLER, FROM A PHOTO BY ROBERTO SURO Juan L. Chanax own and then we would go to the building manager and say we need another place.” The network functioned with equal efficiency at getting and keeping jobs. Juan first found steady work at a supermarket that was part of the locally-owned Randall’s chain, which specializes in huge, high-quality food stores. Since Juan began working there, Randall’s has expanded along with Houston’s suburbs as middleand upperclass whites moved progressively farther from the city center. An extraordinary relationship developed between the supermarket chain and the Maya such that nearly 1,000 of them are now scattered around some 40 stores. “When they were going to open a new store, they would say to us, we need so many people for maintenance to be ready for such-and-such a date, and when it came time we would have everything ready,” Juan said. Listening to Juan talk about how his network operated it is not surprising that the Maya became such a favored source of employees. They organized themselves into shifts, divided tasks among themselves and even nominated their own foreman for each crew, picking experienced workers who spoke some English to act as an intermediary with the supervisors. Even more impressive was the way they developed the kind of work attitudes so highly valued in today’s consumer service jobs. “Several of us would have long talks with anyone starting at Randall’s. We told them the only reason for leaving home is to work and so there will be none of this thing of skipping days, not showing up because you feel lazy. Second, we said that even though none of us have much school education, our parents taught us how to respect others and behave correctly. So at work there will never be any yelling or name calling and you will always treat Americans with good manners that show you are not just some ruffian.” Over time as more and more workers learned English and American ways these functions became less necessary. Many of the Maya like Juan have become managers or assistant managers of whole departments. Arid now, with Randall’s carefully verifying its employees’ immigration status, new arrivals can no longer find work there, Juan said. Instead, they spend a few years as busboys or other such work until they can fix their papers. Since Juan first pushed a mop, the Mayan work force has participated in the creation of a new culture out along the freeways. Like other immigrants who deliver pizza, wash dishes, clean houses, do construction work or take care of children and old people, the Guatemalans are among the great amorsoon …..Sy THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7