- It’s been 12 years since the federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25 per hour.
- I’m a McDonald’s worker who makes just $10 per hour.
- Millions of people across the country can no longer afford to wait — Congress must raise the minimum wage and lift workers out of poverty.
- Jarmier Owens has worked at a McDonald’s location in Detroit for four years.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
For millions of workers across the country, it’s been 12 years without a raise in the minimum wage.
12 years is a long time. In the past 12 years, we’ve had three different presidents, six Olympics, and seven Fast & Furious movies. But in all that time, the federal minimum wage has stayed the same. The last time it was increased was on July 24, 2009, to the amount of just $7.25 an hour.
That means that companies like the one I work for, McDonald’s, can continue to pay us starvation wages, even while they made nearly $5 billion in profits last year in the middle of a global pandemic. McDonald’s CEO, Chris Kempczinksi, made $10.8 million last year while cooks and cashiers like me risked our lives serving burgers and fries for a paycheck that’s hardly enough to keep a roof over our heads.
That’s why on July 20, I joined my co-workers around the country in a strike to demand $15 per hour from companies like McDonald’s. We’re also calling on Congress to finally increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
A living wage
I’ve heard a lot about the so-called economic recovery, but like many fast food workers across the country, I’m struggling, and the pandemic has made things twice as hard. We have to do twice as much work to keep ourselves , our families and our customers safe. I’m afraid of getting sick, but at the same time I’m worried about paying for
, food and rent.
There are some in Congress who say that states should set their own minimum wages or that it should be up to big corporations to decide base pay. But even while 10 states and some big companies have increased their minimum wages to $15 per hour, here in Michigan, the minimum wage is stuck at $9.65, and I’m still making $10.
Even worse, Michigan has racist laws on the books. These laws, like Michigan’s Local Government Labor Regulatory Limitation Act, block Black and brown workers from getting a raise by preventing local governments from raising the local minimum wage. This happens even in cities that are far more expensive to live in than other parts of the state. With these kinds of laws in place, it sometimes feels like it’s impossible for us to win, stuck between elected officials passing the responsibility to do their jobs back and forth.
But I got involved with the Fight for $15 and a Union because I refuse to accept that anything is impossible. It’s time for a change, and that change can’t be just for some — it has to apply to every single worker across the country .
We’ll never have a recovery that is equal and just if some workers doing the same job with the same hours thrive, while others barely survive. We cannot leave anybody behind. $15 per hour is the bare minimum we need to get by, period .
Anything less than that is not only a slap in the face, it’s a strain on the economy. Workers at other restaurants like Burger King are walking off the job as a group, tired of being treated without respect. Meanwhile, millions of families like mine are forced to rely on public assistance programs, at the cost of nearly $107 billion taxpayer dollars a year. Raising the wage would get people back to work and save taxpayers’ money too.
As a member of the Fight for $15 and a Union, I’m fighting for a future where every community can thrive, regardless of race, gender or ZIP code. I know we can get there if big corporations and our elected leaders listen to our demands for $15 and a voice on the job.
We’ve been fighting for years, and now I’m asking all workers and allies to join us in the call. We need $15, and we need it now.