A lot of people have been asking me why I went on strike. I have a simple answer: Because I'm not a teen anymore.
I work at McDonald's, and I hear a lot of people talk about how fast-food jobs are for teenagers. Well, I'm not a teenager. I'm 33 years old. And I work with a lot of people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are working to pay their rent and put food on the table.
I did get that "grown-up" job, selling skin products at a brand-name skin-care store. I got to use my people skills -- working with customers to figure out which products were best for their skin. The more I listened to and connected with customers, the more I sold. I was good at my job. I ended up being a top salesperson.
I had that job for 6½ years. Then the economy crashed, and people didn't have money to spend on face lotions anymore. At first, I thought I'd get another decent-paying job in a month or two. I had good sales experience and great references.
I couldn't find another decent sales job, no matter how hard I tried. So I finally did something I never thought I'd do. I got another fast-food job.
I make $7.25 an hour, less than half of what I made in my last job. That's OK if you're 16 and you want to buy a phone or sneakers, but it's not OK if you're supporting yourself. Even though I serve food at my job, I can't afford to buy enough food. I have to rely on food stamps. I'd go hungry without them.
We don't make enough money to take care of ourselves or to help our neighborhoods. If we had a few extra dollars in our pockets, we'd spend it and help create jobs and help get the economy going again.
It gets to me. I was a pretty happy person when I worked at the skin care store, but now I have panic attacks. I went on strike last week because I can't stand the stress of trying to live on minimum wage. Worrying about the future is the hardest part, because at $7.25, I don't have a future.
Stephanie Sanders is a McDonald's worker and a member of the Milwaukee Workers Organizing Committee, fast-food workers who have joined together to seek fair pay and the right to form a union. Her story was originally published in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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