Commentary: Why I joined the nationwide fast food strike

The average fast food worker in Mississippi earns less than the poverty line and receives few benefits or protections.

On November 10 I joined thousands of underpaid workers across the country as we stood together to demand a living wage and the right form a union. I work at Popeye’s in Jackson, and like many of my coworkers, I’m an adult raising two children on a poverty wage. You might not know fast food workers are struggling just to keep the lights on and our children in a safe environment when you come to our restaurants. This is because we are customer service professionals, which means we leave our personal problems at the door.

I usually don’t talk about how I’m constantly stressed to come up with money to pay for daycare for my kids. I’m nervous to tell my job that I don’t have open availability because I don’t want them to cut my hours. I worry that if I have to call in and take a day off when my child is sick, it will mean I lose my job. I was hesitant at first to open up about these things, but I’m not ashamed, and I think it’s very important that people hear my story.

The work that I do at Popeye’s and at home with my children brings me so much pride. My children will grow up with a mother who values hard work and isn’t afraid to stand up for what is right. The work I do for Popeye’s is worth more than the $7.50 an hour that I earn. It’s worth $15 an hour. It should come with union protection, so I don’t have to worry about being fired if one of my children has a medical emergency. It’s not just fast food workers who need these things, it’s all workers.

I recently learned that 64 million Americans make less than $15 an hour, including more than half of all workers in Mississippi. In a country as rich as ours, that is unacceptable. When I went on strike on November 10, I was standing up not only for myself and my children, but for everyone in America making less than $15. That’s because we all need a raise. Our communities and our economy depend on family’s like mine being able to buy groceries, school supplies, and clothes.

I refuse to be shamed for working in fast food and making a poverty wage. The work I do requires skill and dedication. Fast food is one of the fastest growing industries, and it employs a higher share of workers in Mississippi than any other state. Yet fast food wages in Mississippi average $8.37 an hour. If you’re lucky enough to work full-time, that comes to only $17,401 a year — $2,600 less than the poverty line for a family of three like mine. Fast food is a $200 billion industry, and the people it employs should be celebrated, not stigmatized. I’m proud of my work, and I’m proud to be one of the thousand of working fighting for 15.

In this article