Profiles of NYC Workers



Atiqullah Zaman, known by his customers as Simon, was born and raised in Afghanistan. He came to the United States as a refugee when he was young, after Russia invaded his country. Zaman, 54, works as a street food vendor on the corner of 39th Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan. After his five-day work week, he commutes home to Maryland every Friday to see his wife and kids. Working the coffee cart is tough, Zaman says, especially at his age. “I’m a Type 2 diabetic on insulin so I’m not a healthy person. I force myself to come to work. But once I come, I forget about the pain,” he said. “You asked me, ‘What I like best about my job?’ It’s serving people with a smile and a happy face.”



Monique Keith, 44, is the mother of two children – a 17-year-old son and a 26-year-old daughter. She lives with her family in Brownsville, Brooklyn and works as a subway station agent. “I’m considered RDO – regular days off – meaning every day I’m at a different location,” she said. “I do the jobs of people’s days off.” She’s been working for the MTA for the last 20 years. The question she gets asked the most, besides questions about MetroCards and subway routes, is how can someone work for the MTA. “A lot of the questions I get are, ‘How did you get this job?’ so I refer them to our website or the location where they can pick up applications,” she said. “I give them helpful advice.”



Omar Freckleton, 31, lives in East New York with his mom and his stepdad. He has a 3-year-old daughter, who lives in New Jersey, and he pays child support and visits her on weekends. Freckleton has been outspoken about the working conditions at McDonald’s, joining the fast food movement that is advocating for higher wages and a union contract. Freckleton wants to go back to school but says he can’t commit to a class schedule or plan financially because McDonald’s cut his hours and his work schedule changes from week to week. “It’s not consistent,” he said. “They could have you working a morning shift. They could have you working the night shift. They could have you working the day shift. Who knows what your shift is going to be.”