LABOR DAY: For Strong Wages, Strong Unions Needed

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The Fight for 15 is a national campaign that keeps growing stronger. Photo courtesy of Fight for 15

BY VENSON BARBER

As a fast-food worker, I work for a multi-billion-dollar corporation, yet I don’t earn enough to move out of my parents’ home at age 27.

I’ve worked at McDonald’s for the past six years and I make $7.25 an hour. Each check varies between $100 and $200, nowhere near enough to cover the cost for my transportation or to contribute something to help my parents with their bills. I have no set hours and no protection on the job.

In June, I made the trip to Harrisburg two times, joining hundreds of other low-wage workers spanning several industries including fast-food, security and homecare, to lobby our elected officials to do the right thing and pass the People’s Budget. That would be a budget that would fund critical services, and raise the standard of living for workers by increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Missing its June deadline, the Pennsylvania legislature has once again failed underpaid workers by leaving the minimum wage to a place where workers are unable to survive.

It’s time to raise the standard of living for workers in Pennsylvania and that can only happen with an increase to the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

There are only two ways that this can actually happen. Legislators can actually do their job and pass bills that will help families like mine instead of placing us further in debt. The other way to improve the lives of workers making less than $15 across the state is strong unions!

Unless workers in every region of the country can win unions, crooked politicians and corporations will continue to rig the system and workers will continue to lose. The decline in unions and wages have been found to be contributors to income inequality. And, unfortunately, people of color continue to be disproportionately affected. With 42% of US workers earning less than $15 an hour, more than half of Black workers are low wage and almost 60% of Latino.

My mother showed me that through joining a union, you can, in fact, have dignity and respect in the workplace.

She left her job working for the Internal Revenue Service to seek out a job that fulfilled her passion – traveling. Like my mother, we both are working in jobs we truly enjoy and love. But that’s where the similarities end.

When she began working for American Airlines, she immediately became a member of the CWA Local 13301. My mother has the opportunity to take time off from work if she’s under the weather or for vacation – with pay. When I am sick, I have to make the tough choice of staying home to nurse myself back to good health or going to work, because I cannot afford to lose those hours.

In the six years that I’ve worked in McDonald’s, my mother has received three raises while I have received not one. As a union member, she enjoys benefits that all hard-working people should have and that’s why I am fighting so hard to win my union.

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