Today, fast food workers across the United States are striking for higher pay. Paltry minimum wages mean that workers are paid as little as $7.25 an hour — not nearly enough to live off of, let alone raise a family. More than 13 percent of fast food workers rely on food stamps to make ends meet, and a disproportionate number of fast food employees are women of color. Willietta Dukes is one woman who will be striking today. She writes:
I’ve worked at fast-food restaurants in North Carolina for the past 15 years. I’ve spent more hours at Church’s Chicken, McDonald’s and now Burger King than I can remember. I work hard – I never miss a shift and always arrive on time. But today, I’m going on strike.
I make $7.85 at Burger King as a guest ambassador and team leader, where I train new employees on restaurant regulations and perform the manager’s duties in their absence. Before Burger King, I worked at Church’s for 12 years, starting at $6.30 and ending at just a little more than $8 an hour.
I’ve never walked off a job before. I don’t consider myself an activist, and I’ve never been involved with politics. I’m a mother with two sons, and like any mom knows, raising two teenage boys is tough. Raising them as a single mother, on less than $8 an hour, is nearly impossible, though.
My boys, Tramaine and Russell Jr are now 20 and 21 years old. When they were in middle and high school, I had to work two fast-food jobs to make ends meet. Most days, I would put them on the bus at 6:30am before working a 9 to 4 shift at one restaurant, then a 5-close shift at another. If I had a day off, I was at their schools, checking in with their teachers and making sure they were keeping up with their education. I wanted them, when they were grown-up, to not have to work two jobs.
My hours, like many of my coworkers, were cut this year, and I now work only 25 to 28 hours each week. I can’t afford to pay my bills working part time and making $7.85, and last month, I lost my house. Now, I go back and forth between staying with Russell Jr and Tramaine. I never imagined my life would be like this at this point. I successfully raised two boys, and now I’m forced to live out of their spare bedrooms. That’s why I’m on strike today.
Sally Kohn at the Daily Beast adds:
People of color make up 32 percent of the total American workforce but a disproportionate 42 percent of minimum-wage earners. And in the restaurant and fast-food industries, the majority of those workers are women of color—who, studies show, are paid 60 percent less than their male counterparts. Over 13 percent of food-industry workers rely on food stamps to feed their own families, almost double the rate of workers in other industries. Like Sepulveda, millions of food workers are struggling to raise a family while making just $7.25 an hour, or sometimes less. And Sepulveda, mind you, is trying to scrape by in the most expensive city in America.
Meanwhile, the multinational corporation for which Sepulveda works, McDonald’s, made $8.5 billion in profits in 2012. The last CEO of McDonald’s, Jim Skinner, took home $8.75 million in pay the previous year.
It’s worth noting that one of the demands of the March on Washington 50 years ago was a $2 minimum wage. In 2013 terms, that’s about $13.50.