Houston Service Workers Demand Livable Wages
Service workers go on strike at a Burger King near the Galleria.
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.
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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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