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Public Employee Press

Book Review

Children save the job of Good Guy Jake/Buen Chico Jake


District Council 37 members never quit and neither does sanitation worker Jake Martin, the fictional hero in a heartwarming new children’s book “Good Guy Jake/Buen Chico Jake” by Mark Torres.

And when a mean-spirited Scrooge unfairly maligns Jake, young readers learn a valuable lesson about how his union and community help win his job back.

The illustrated, bilingual book begins with Jake making his daily rounds.

He loves his work keeping New York City’s streets clean, and he also finds a way to give back to the neighborhood. When Jake sees toys that have been thrown out, he takes them home to fix and paint, then gives them to children at a local shelter — although this is technically against the rules.

Then, one wintry day, an angry motorist turns Jake in to the sanitation company for collecting the toys. The manager fires Jake right before the holidays, which means no more toys for the children.

Fortunately, Torres writes, “Jake is a member of the United Street Cleaners Union (USCU)…If something bad happens to a worker while on the job, the worker can file a complaint.”

Author Torres, general counsel of Teamsters Local 810 in New York, skillfully walks young readers through Jake’s arbitration hearing, where he explains he was giving the toys away, not selling them to make money.

But Jake’s case is finally won when children and parents show up carrying “We Love Jake” signs to testify about what the toys mean to them.

“Sometimes at the shelter we are sad,” says Olivia, who received a pink scooter. “When Jake gave us gifts, it made us happy. He made us feel loved.”

Another child says, “If he broke a rule, he shouldn’t lose his job because he was trying to do something nice.”

In the end, the judge decides that Jake should get his job back, as long as he breaks no more rules — and his union sets up a toy drive similar to DC 37’s Holiday Giving program.

In “Good Guy Jake/Buen Chico Jake,” children will learn the real union story of advocating for social justice for working people — and it makes an excellent gift for the holiday season and all year round.

The book is available at the DC 37 library and is one of several socially-conscious children’s books published by