OP-ED | Surviving on Just Above The Minimum Wage
My name is Josh Griffin and I’ve worked at the McDonald’s on the Tolland Turnpike in Manchester for more than two years. Eventually, I’d like to go back to school to study graphic design, but making less than $10 an hour, just a bit above the minimum wage, I can’t afford to get the training I need to launch a career in graphic design. In fact, money is so tight that I am sometimes forced to go to a food pantry when I can’t afford groceries.
With a spotlight shining on what’s been happening to fast food workers, everybody has our backs. Elected officials like President Barack Obama and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and most Americans, all agree that the system is broken. The rich stay rich as the rest of struggle. Connecticut’s current minimum wage, $8.70, is not enough to live on. Low wages hurt our economy.
Not only are our wages too low to live on, but we also know we are being cheated. Every day fast food companies steal workers’ wages in lots of ways: having us work off the clock or not paying us for our overtime to name just a few.
I have experienced wage theft frequently on the job. There have been days where I have not been given a break, but when I see my check at the end of the week, that half an hour of pay was stolen from me. It’s also the little stuff, like when the managers ask me to hand out orders once I’ve already clocked out. I am working for free for McDonald’s during that time. Things like this happen almost every day to my coworkers and me. I know workers who work at multiple locations under the same owner working more than 40 hours a week between both stores, and are afraid of demanding overtime for fear of losing their needed hours.
We can’t forget that my coworkers and I work for a multibillion-dollar corporation. How could they turn a blind eye to the people that allow them to make those billions?
That’s why we’re fighting for $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation.
If I made $15 an hour, I’d have enough money to start saving to go to school. I want to be able to provide for my household. I don’t want to have to rely on state medical insurance or go to the food pantry. If I made more money, I would have my rent and bills paid off and be able to get my life on track.
When my coworkers and I come together to try to form a union, I see others going through the same things that I am forced to go through and others fighting to improve our jobs. I also know dedicated workers who have been here for years, yet are lucky if they even see a raise. Nobody thinks they are strong enough to change this industry by themselves. United we are powerful. If we unionize we can win.
Fast food workers are realizing we have a voice. We need to look to our coworkers and supporters in the community for strength. In Hartford and New Haven last week, we joined with workers in more than 30 other cities across the country to protest wage theft in the fast food industry. We are going to continue fighting and we won’t stop until we are paid what they owe us.
Josh Griffin works at McDonald’s in Manchester.