Since the recession in 2008, millions of jobs have been lost. If you were able to maintain a job with a reasonable salary and benefits over the past five or six years, despite the economy, consider yourself lucky. Many have been not so lucky. Many have been forced to take jobs that they are overqualified and/or underpaid for, just to have a job.
This week, fast food workers from all over the country came together in protest of the low wages and lack of a union. Fast food and retail jobs used to be the primary employment of high school and college kids, just looking for a little extra income. In this economy, making $10/hr in retail or fast food is the best many can get career wise. Some of these fast food and retail employees are extremely intelligent. They have spent years and many thousands of dollars to receive degrees that they hoped would open doors to a good life.
Instead many are asking one of two questions: “Would you like fries with that?” or “Would like to apply for (insert store name here) credit card?”. There is nothing wrong with working retail and fast food. However, when your a thirty something with a masters degree and the only job you have been offered is Starbucks, that’s a problem.
I live in New York City. As beautiful as my hometown is, it is an expensive place to live in. I have friends who live in upstate New York who pay the same amount of money for a mortgage that I pay in rent. They get for their money a house, I get a one bedroom apartment.
I stand with these fast food workers because I understand their struggle. Trying to get by on $10-12/hr as a single person without children is difficult. I can’t imagine how much more of a struggle it is to raise children, even in a two income household, earning that salary.
These fast food chains make billions of dollars a year. Burger King was recently accused of tax evasion. Instead of evading paying taxes and using the money to pay a legal team, the executives at Burger King could use that money to pay their employees a decent wage.
A living wage is not an unreasonable request. A living wage allows us to not just to pay our basic bills, but to have fun with our lives. Eating out, going on vacations, etc. When we spend when we have that little extra income then flows back into the economy creating more jobs, raising salaries and making our country better.
And that is why I stand with the striking fast food workers.