She’s on strike because she can’t live on a part time job?

I’m sorry? What?

I’ve worked at fast-food restaurants in North Carolina for the past 15 years. I’ve spent more hours at Church’s Chicken, McDonald’s and now Burger King than I can remember. I work hard – I never miss a shift and always arrive on time. But today, I’m going on strike.

I make $7.85 at Burger King as a guest ambassador and team leader, where I train new employees on restaurant regulations and perform the manager’s duties in their absence. Before Burger King, I worked at Church’s for 12 years, starting at $6.30 and ending at just a little more than $8 an hour.

I’ve never walked off a job before. I don’t consider myself an activist, and I’ve never been involved with politics. I’m a mother with two sons, and like any mom knows, raising two teenage boys is tough. Raising them as a single mother, on less than $8 an hour, is nearly impossible, though.

My boys, Tramaine and Russell Jr are now 20 and 21 years old. When they were in middle and high school, I had to work two fast-food jobs to make ends meet. Most days, I would put them on the bus at 6:30am before working a 9 to 4 shift at one restaurant, then a 5-close shift at another. If I had a day off, I was at their schools, checking in with their teachers and making sure they were keeping up with their education. I wanted them, when they were grown-up, to not have to work two jobs.

My hours, like many of my coworkers, were cut this year, and I now work only 25 to 28 hours each week. I can’t afford to pay my bills working part time and making $7.85, and last month, I lost my house. Now, I go back and forth between staying with Russell Jr and Tramaine. I never imagined my life would be like this at this point. I successfully raised two boys, and now I’m forced to live out of their spare bedrooms. That’s why I’m on strike today.

Seriously?

BTW, the best bet about why her hours were cut: Obamacare.

People who work more than 30 (ish) hours a week have to be provided with health care insurance under the ACA, or the employer must pay a fine. Thus, anecdotally at least, many employers are cutting hours down to below 30.

But most seriously, look at what her complaint is. That she cannot live on the proceeds of a part time job therefore her pay should rise.

This is not, I submit, being serious about matters.

33 comments on “She’s on strike because she can’t live on a part time job?

  1. I sympathise with her, it must be hard to be a single mother in low-paid employment.

    The lesson here is: don’t become a single mother reliant on low-paid employment. If you aren’t rich enough to cope on your own, make sure Russell Sr. plans on sticking around to support his progeny before you let him put a baby in you. Your poor life choices do not an obligation on society create.

  2. this is you at your worst Tim, not really giving a shit about what life is like for the very many people living on low wages. She’s not working part time voluntarily, there’s still a recession on and unemployment is high, maybe she could find another part time job to fit around this one, maybe she could find another job altogether, maybe not. But maybe these fast food restaurants could offer their workers a combination of hours and wages they can actually live on.

    What is the point of economic activity again? utility. And what do we traditionally assume about where the highest marginal gains are? For the poor. So if you are a conventional economist, rather than a right wing version of the NEF, why aren’t you more interested in how life might be made better for those on the bottom rungs of society’s ladder?

    Yes, I know all about the wonders of capitalism raising living standards, but I also know that many employers will treat their workers like shit and pay them as little as possible if they can get away with it, as when, for example, people are desperate for work.

    And if you’re in that position, a perfectly sensible thing to do is go out on strike and apply a bit of pressure on your employer to make your life a bit better. More power to her elbow I say.

    Tim adds: So, how could her life be made better? How about the universal basic income which you know I support? Or how about not introducing a health care insurance system which deliberately incentivises employers to cut hours to part time for all? Or perhaps some form of negative income tax for the low paid? Like, say, the EITC which she will certainly be receiving. Or free medical care for the poor: Medicaid the Americans call their version. Or perhaps a little help with buying food: SNAP the Americans call their version and she’s probably eligible for that too.

    Which still leaves me with the point that I do make above. That one of her complaints is that she is not able to live on the income from a part time job. Well, nor can I and boo hoo, eh?

  3. Luis – sadly for Willietta, the US government has made sure she faces lots and lots of competition in the labour market from immigrants who are much poorer than she is. So her strike action is unlikely to be successful.

  4. Tim,

    oh, I didn’t know you supported a basic income, and free healhcare for the poor (is Medicaid really sufficient?). Is that really compatible with your outrage about how much tax the government extracts from us? Anyway, good to hear you’re not the heartless wretch you appear to be. But why oppose other means of raising living standards, like strikes?

    but then why the obnoxious sarcastic “boo hoo” about a woman who is clearly having a really tough time and did not choose to work part time, gets very badly paid, and very likely cannot find a better job?

  5. But Luis, was it also not a choice to become a single mother not once, but twice?

    And to never seemingly progress beyond a low-paid job?

  6. yes of course you’re right Julia, so on second thoughts, fuck her, she deserves her miserable lot. if anything I think Burger King should pay the silly cow less.

  7. It is a stupid strike. It is not directed at a specific company, but at an entire industry. There is no single party that you can negotiate with. Further, most fast-food restaurants are franchises, so the chains cannot dictate wages.

  8. Luis – no, fuck Burger King. Don’t they realise that the fact lots of people like Willietta chose to have children without a father around to support them means they have a responsibility to pay her more, even though the market value of her skills is very low and they already pay taxes to support the benefits she and her children almost certainly currently receive?

    They should ramp up her salary and pay for it by jacking up their prices. Sure, that may mean all the poor people who currently enjoy eating at Burger King lose out, but their story isn’t as sad as Willietta’s, so screw them.

  9. @Steve and @JuliaM

    Where does it say she chose to be a single mother?

    Seems to me, from the article, she’s made a bloody great effort to bring up her sons well, whatever you think of the strike. All credit to her.

  10. Yes, she’s setting a sterling example to her sons – demanding to be paid more than she’s worth because ‘they are rich and can afford it!’ and ducking the Obamacare question Tim raises altogether.

    I wonder what jobs they have..?

  11. Doug – I meant it when I said I sympathise with her. Also I commend her for wanting to work and her apparent concern for her children’s education. Hopefully she has instilled that ethic in her sons so they can avoid the poverty trap.

    Re: choice. Western governments, with the most noble of stated intentions, have spent the last 50-odd years creating welfare systems that subsidise single mothers and insert the state as substitute Daddy. Shockingly, this has resulted far more single mothers than used to be the case, almost as if there’s a supply curve in action. The vast majority of whom should have known better before they shacked up with the sexy but shiftless bad boys who fathered their children.

    I very much doubt our heroine is an exception to the rule.

  12. Re: choice. Western governments, with the most noble of stated intentions, have spent the last 50-odd years creating welfare systems that subsidise single mothers and insert the state as substitute Daddy

    And a system where unemployment / underemployment is necessary to keep everything propped up. And a system where to maintain the plebs’ illusion of wealth there is tons of lovely credit to ensure property prices are high and increasing.

    God she has a bloody cheek to complain!

  13. even though the market value of her skills is very low

    clearly the market value of her skills depends upon things like the level of unemployment, which the market system isn’t doing such a great job of reducing right now.

    The “market value” of an awful lot of people’s skills is very low – take a look at the income distribution . At what point do these people start to question whether the market system is such a great idea? If you want capitalism to continue, it might be worth worrying a bit more about the welfare of the downtrodden masses.

    I understand that increasing the wages of badly paid workers will increase the prices of goods badly paid workers produce, many of which are purchased by said badly paid workers. This does not mean it is impossible to change the distribution of income so that the real wages of badly paid workers rise and the incomes of the stinking rich fall.

  14. Ukliberty – Yar, artificially cheap credit is like smoking – fun at first but hazardous in the long run.

    But how does unemployment keep things propped up?

  15. I am sorry for the woman’s problems also.

    However–
    1. Even if she is not a single mother by choice–ie hubby buggered off–she still chose her husband poorly. That is not the problem of the rest of us.
    2-The scum of statism/socialism have fucked up the economy with welfare, taxes,debt, regulation–esp minimum wages and now the US bullshit of Obama”care”. This lady is one of millions of victims of all this shit (in all areas of life).
    3- If we want to help them the only way is to get rid of the govt created bullshit that has brought about the fucking economic mess.
    One of the vilest lies to float about our shitty society is that one pedalled by socialist scum–that “the market” is somehow the cause of the God-awful state that millions find themselves in instead of socialism and its poison offshoots.

  16. Luis – if it weren’t for mass, sustained, immigration of low skilled people to the US and Europe we could expect the wages of indigenous low-skilled workers to be appreciably higher. Unfortunately our betters decided otherwise. Even so, you’d rather be poor in the United States than poor in almost any other country on the planet, thanks to the market system that allows even poor Americans to enjoy a standard of living most people in Africa or Asia would envy.

    Surely there’s a business opportunity here for someone to open an ethical fast food chain staffed by highly paid fast food professionals. You could call it Burger Commune.

  17. Let me see if I have got this right.

    She was okay when allowed to work the hours she used to work on minimum wage.

    Due to interference by politicians it is no longer possible for her employer to offer her than number of hours.

    This is happening right across the industry she is working in.

    So won’t this mean that there will be a huge increase in the number of part time jobs.

    So isn’t the answer to get two part time jobs and get her income back up to where it was?

    Unfortunate that she has to do that, but it’s always the same, the powerless have to find ways around what the powerful do.

  18. If low paid workers were paid more then they’d have more money. However as has been pointed out the price of the goods/service they produce has to go up to pay for it – so those who have been given more pay then end up paying more out.
    But also those who are not working are affected – pensioners, young people, kids, carers, housewives or househusbands. All also have to pay more for that goods or service – without the same increase in income!

  19. Luis Enrique:

    “this is you at your worst Tim, not really giving a shit about what life is like for the very many people living on low wages.”

    This is just the normal leftist presumption that the ones who do not agree with their proposed solutions are evil and do not want to solve the identified problem.

    “Yes, I know all about the wonders of capitalism raising living standards, but I also know that many employers will treat their workers like shit and pay them as little as possible if they can get away with it, as when, for example, people are desperate for work.”

    As Tim says, they are cutting down on hours because of a government intervention not because they want to. Before the government intervention, they were allowing them to work more hours. Ergo, the companies treated their employees better without government intervention…

  20. Emil you dumb turd, I mentioned no policy prescriptions, it was the lack of sympathy, as evident in the subsequent boo hoo comment I objected to.

    And let’s not forget, these companies could have chosen to bear the extra healthcare costs but they chose instead to cut hours and make life harder for their workers.

  21. “Raising them as a single mother, on less than $8 an hour, is nearly impossible, though” – except she obviously has done so since they are no9w 20 and 21
    Currently the level of support for asylum seekers in the UK (most of whom are fleeing from horrendous persecution) is £36 per adult per week, She is getting more than three times as much (her kids have grown up and have homes of their own where she sleeps).
    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion as to what constitutes a minimally acceptably standard of living but no-one, except Gordon Brown and Polly Toynbee, can simultaneously argue that one-third of Ms Duke’s income (excluding rent) is enough for someone, including rent, in a strange country and that Ms Dukes cannot live on her income with the help of her sons.

  22. One thing in the article does stick out:

    ‘Burger King says they can’t pay employees like me higher wages because it would force them out of business. Yet last year it made $117m in profits and its CEO took home $6.47m. It would take me 634 years to earn that much.’

    Also, as someone whose father died when I was 5, can I politely ask you all not to tar all single mother with the ‘feckless teenagers’ brush

  23. ‘Burger King says they can’t pay employees like me higher wages because it would force them out of business. Yet last year it made $117m in profits and its CEO took home $6.47m. It would take me 634 years to earn that much.’

    It would take her a million years to build the great pyramid all on her own. What has that got to do with anything apart from bogus socialist sympathetics? ( strange that the fuckers never express much sympathy for the millions they have murdered or the family members of those so dispatched).

    Burger King may make 117 mil profit–against a huge turnover.As Enrique says perhaps they could absorb the extra healthcare costs imposed by the Ober-turd–why should they?. If we stuck a surcharge on Enrique (just for all the poor people created by staism/socialism of course) that reduced his income by half–well he could still get by. He is now working for half-pay of course but what does that matter–the poor would be helped–until the next lot of govt thieving/meddling made them even poorer again.

    Now as to the rightness of some CEO taking 6+ mil as a salary–that I (and prob the shareholders) have very severe doubts about. However, bullshit govt rules and govt gangs, like the SEC, have created a situation where mangers of such businesses are entrenched and difficult to turf out. This leaves them in a position to rip-off the shareholders, customers and employees with a high level of impunity so long as they don’t upset their cronys amongest scum of the state

  24. If I understand the Burger King numbers correctly, they have more than 7000 restaurants in the US, mainly franchise owned. If we were to assume that they have 20 employees per restaurant that means 140 000 employees. If were to raise their salary cost by $10 per week that means a hit of 10 x 50 x 140 000 = 70 mn $. This is likely a very conservative estimate as I dare to say that a) the increased cost from Obamacare and the wage increases being demanded are much much more than $10 per week and b) that they have much more than 20 employees per restaurant which means that the real impact would be multiples higher.

    (The other thing to note is that the fact that most of the restaurants are franchises means that a comparison with the profit of Burger King as a company is pretty meaningless as it will be the franchisees footing most of the bill)

    Oh and again: this mess was created by government not by the market

  25. @Mr Erks- Your last point about management screwing over shareholders/employees was what I was referring to.

    ‘perhaps they could absorb the extra healthcare costs imposed by the Ober-turd–why should they?’ to prevent strikes/bad-feeling among staff perhaps? As Luis said earlier

    ‘If you want capitalism to continue, it might be worth worrying a bit more about the welfare of the downtrodden masses’- if people feel they are getting screwed over why would they support the system?

  26. For all the fulmination about this, it might be useful to note that Single Mom had 15 years to acquire skills and job search a way out of working in fast food. Not easy, but not all that uncommon, either.

    The elephant in the room here is that if you insist on remaining employed in a low wage occupation, you’re going to make low wages… And please, no patronizing comments about the “myth” of upward mobility. I’ve worked with a variety of immigrant communities for nearly two decades: Upward mobility exists and is available to anyone smart enough to harness it to their purposes.

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