• It has been 12 years since the federal minimum wage was increased to $ 7.25 an hour.
  • I am a McDonald’s employee who only earns $ 10 an 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 worked at a McDonald’s establishment 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 has been 12 years without a minimum wage increase.

12 years is a long time. Over the past 12 years, we’ve had three different Presidents, six Olympics, and seven Fast & Furious movies. But all this time, the federal minimum wage has remained the same. The last time it was increased was July 24, 2009, for just $ 7.25 an hour.

This means that companies like the one I work for, McDonald’s, may continue to pay us starvation wages, even though they made nearly $ 5 billion in profits last year amid 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 salary barely enough to keep a roof over their heads above our heads.

That’s why on July 20, I joined my colleagues across the country in a strike demanding $ 15 an hour from companies like McDonald’s. We also call on Congress to finally raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an 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 it twice as difficult. We have to do double the work to keep ourselves, our families and our customers safe. I’m afraid of getting sick, but at the same time I’m afraid to pay for

car insurance
, food and rent.

Some in Congress say states should set their own minimum wages or that it should be up to big business to decide the base wage. But even though 10 states and some big companies have raised their minimum wages to $ 15 an hour, here in Michigan the minimum wage is stuck at $ 9.65, and I’m still making $ 10.

Worse yet, Michigan has racist laws on the books. These laws, like that of Michigan Local Authority Labor Regulation Limitation Act, prevent black and brown workers from getting a raise by preventing local governments from raising the local minimum wage. This happens even in cities where life is much more expensive than in other parts of the state. With these kinds of laws in place, we sometimes have the impression that it is impossible for us to win, trapped between elected officials who pass on the responsibility of doing their work.

But I got involved in the Fight for $ 15 and a Union because I refuse to accept that everything is impossible. It’s time for a change, and this change cannot be reserved for some – it must apply to every worker across the country.

We will never have an equal and fair recovery if some workers doing the same job with the same hours thrive while others barely survive. We cannot leave anyone behind. $ 15 an hour is the bare minimum we need to get by, period.

Anything less than this isn’t just a slap in the face, it’s a strain on the economy. Workers at other restaurants like Burger King are leave work in a group, tired of being treated without respect. Meanwhile, millions of families like mine are forced to depend on public aid programs, Cost of nearly 107 billion taxpayer dollars a year. Raising wages would get people back to work and also save taxpayer dollars.

As a member of Fight for $ 15 and a Union, I am fighting for a future where every community can thrive, regardless of race, gender or zip code. I know we can do this if big business and our elected leaders listen to our demands for $ 15 and a voice at work.

We have been fighting for years, and now I ask all workers and allies to join us in the call. We need $ 15, and we need it now.

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