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Jesús Morales, or @juixxe on TikTok, is 24 years old and changing dozens of lives after raising and donating over $130,000 to street vendors throughout Southern California.
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Street vendors in Los Angeles are estimated to generate an average of $204 per week or a little over $10,000 a year. A recent report by the UCLA School of Law found that food laws in places like Los Angeles make it incredibly difficult and occasionally expensive for street vendors to legally operate. For one thing, a lot of the process for vendors in the county is outlined in only English and requires visits to multiple offices.
These extra fines and fees burden small-scale food vendors. Most of them are immigrants and pay out of pocket for the supplies and food. A Federal Reserve Bank study found that nearly 60% of part-time workers in the U.S. earn their wage through side jobs and being entrepreneurs like street vendors.
“In Southern California, there are hundreds if not thousands of street vendors,” Morales told In The Know. “I feel like I can do something much greater with this [TikTok] audience rather than just making people laugh.”
On Aug. 24, 2020, Morales gave his local street vendor a $100 tip. He filmed the interaction hoping to inspire others — he specifically did not include the vendor’s face or any identifying information for safety and privacy reasons — to do something kind. Instead, he found himself raising money from viewers. That $100 tip turned into $1,000.
There’s also a nostalgic factor to how informal and random the experience is for Morales.
“I’m sure a lot of Latinos or Hispanics, in general, when they were younger, remember being young and putting on the random pair of slippers or whatever shoes were at the door and just running for the paleteros,” he said. “I’ll get out of the car, and I’ll grab the money and I’ll just run to wherever they’re at.”
Morales’ purpose goes beyond just handing the vendors money. If the vendors aren’t too tired or busy, he’ll ask them a couple of questions about the job.
“I usually ask them what their biggest tip is because I want to show the world what the reality of it is,” he explained. “Many of these street vendors aren’t used to being tipped, and if they are it’s nothing crazy. It’s like maybe $1.50, $2, $3 — for the most part from the interactions that I’ve had that’s about the average, which is great! Even if it’s $1.50 — I always preach tip your street vendors whatever it may be. Every cent, every dollar counts.”
Morales also wants viewers to remember that vendors do not get minimum wage or have benefits, so every dollar he’s collecting and giving to a vendor goes towards them being able to provide for their family or to continue their business.
“I don’t think people really understand the magnitude of the impacts that we’re making on multiple people’s lives through these donations,” Morales said. “A lot of them do struggle, a lot of them are immigrants and they’re just hustling day in and day out to just make a living.”
As a child of immigrants himself, Morales has seen firsthand how hard it can be for families. His parents weren’t street vendors themselves, but he tries to imagine what it would’ve meant for his family if someone had walked up to them and handed them $1,000.
“$1,000 in hindsight it doesn’t seem a lot of money,” he said. “People will send [me] $5 and say, ‘I know this isn’t much, but I hope it helps.’ It 100% helps.”
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