Houston Service Workers Demand Livable Wages

Service workers go on strike at a Burger King near the Galleria.EXPAND
Service workers go on strike at a Burger King near the Galleria.
Meagan Flynn

Each day, Rasheedah McClenon drives over to her client's home to keep her company. Her client just had a heart attack, and McClenon, who works for a home health care agency, is there to remind her to take her medicine, to run errands for her, to clean her home and to make sure she's okay. “I'm a family member and a friend to her,” McClenon said.

But she also pointed out the irony of her job: She's hired to take care of other families' homes — but isn't paid enough to take care of her own. The single mom with two boys makes $8.50 an hour.

“We take care of people's lives,” she said. “We do important work, and we love our work. We just want to make a living wage for it.”

That's why McClenon started protesting with Fighting For $15, a grassroots group asking lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. On Thursday, just ahead of the Republican presidential debate at the University of Houston, about 40 protesters walked out on their fast-food jobs and service jobs and shouted for livable wages at a Burger King near the Galleria — many were single parents and immigrants. And they planned to take their signs to UH so the Republican candidates would hear their demands.

In many cities across America, those demands have in fact been heard. The group is on the ground in 190 cities across America and has seen the minimum wage rise to $15 in places like San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Los Angeles. In Texas, there are about 5.4 million people paid less than $15 an hour, the second largest number in the nation according to data from Fighting For $15. In Houston — and the state as a whole — the minimum wage is $7.25.

“There's a lot that I could do with that raise,” said Tanzie Dorough, a single mom who works at Burger King. “I'm fighting for it because I'm trying to better my children's future. I don't want them going through the same thing I'm going through.

She's been protesting for two years, the same length of time she's been working in fast food. She makes $200 every two weeks at $7.75 an hour, six nights a week every week. Since she works the closing shift, she has to hire a babysitter to watch her three kids, too, and said she barely gets any time with them. Her rent is $900 a month. She receives no benefits or health insurance, should her kids get sick or hurt.

“I feel like I'm a workaholic, which I'm not getting paid for. I don't get no overtime. It's hard,” she said. “I feel like it's not right for them to work us like slaves.”


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