My job at Wendy’s on Detroit’s east side doesn’t afford me enough to take care of my basics, and I think companies making billions off that labor should pay their workers enough to do that.
Because I earn only $8.50 an hour, my check is $300 at best for the week. Sometimes it’s only $200 or just above $100, depending on the hours I’m allowed to work. I was promised 40 hours a week, but that never happened.
It means no matter how hard I work, I don’t earn enough to cover the needs of my three children, Trayvon, 8, Tyshawna, 5, and Brianna, 3. I believe in the American dream. That’s why I’m back in school. I’m good at managing money, but I’m struggling to keep a roof over my head because I don’t earn enough to cover housing. Meanwhile, corporations make billions off our labor.
My story is like most fast food workers in America. That’s why I joined thousands of low wage workers at the Fast Food 15 Convention this weekend in Richmond, Va. We will lift up our fight for $15 an hour and call on company leaders and elected officials to support a living wage for workers.
We chose Richmond—the one-time capital of the Confederacy—to illustrate connections between the treatment of today’s workers and our nation’s racist history.
More than 150 years have passed since the Civil War ended in the United States, but African Americans and Latinos still are disproportionately paid less than white people are. Half of all black workers and three of five Latino workers earn less than $15 an hour, according to the National Employment Law Project, a national advocacy organization for employment rights of lower-wage workers. They are among 64 million Americans in the same situation.
Right now, many Americans are fighting injustices. Our low pay is only one of them. We earn less because of hiring discrimination, underfunded schools, and a biased criminal justice system. Even jobs once considered middle class, such as college professors and factory workers, can pay less than $15 an hour.
I may not know where I’ll be living in a few weeks, but I know I have to fight for $15 an hour and I won’t stop until we get it. It’s time to rewrite history so that everyone can take care of basic needs. That’s really not too much to ask.
Shannon Jackson, 32, works at a Wendy’s in Detroit and is part of the D15 campaign for a $15 hourly wage and the right to unionize without interference.