Just five years ago, 56-year-old Army veteran Morris Cornley was doing more than getting by. He earned about $17 an hour as a union truck driver, a salary sufficient enough to make ends meet and have a little extra. But when the economy hit rock bottom four years ago, he lost his job and couldn’t find another. Now, he’s a delivery driver for a local Jimmy John’s gourmet sandwich shop where earns a few cents above minimum wage. It’s not how he planned it, but it’s the only job he can find.
Cornley’s story is not unique. Fast-food workers are not teenagers working for extra pocket change. Their average age is 28. A third of them have at least some college education and more than a quarter are trying to raise a family. Many are like Cornley wanting to find a better paying job, but they cannot.
Our nation’s fastest-growing job sector is also our lowest-paying sector. According to the National Employment Law Project, low-wage jobs comprised 21 percent of recession losses, but amounted to 58 percent of recovery growth in the last few years.
This is why fast-food and retail workers are taking part in a growing movementto lift wages. Last Thursday, one-day strikes in cities across the country were well-documented as were workers’ demands for predictable hours, job security, the right to form a union without intimidation and $15 an hour.
All these things are greatly needed at a time when not only are the majority of new jobs low wage but the nation faces the greatest income inequality in generations.
A report from the Yale University Institution for Social and Policy Studies confirmed that people worked harder but the benefits of that productivity concentrated at the top. Worker productivity increased by 80.4 percent since 1973, but median hourly wages grew only 10.7 percent during that same time.
Meanwhile, corporate profits boomed, executive compensation exponentially outpaced growth in worker pay and income for the richest Americans increased more than 300 percent.In a nutshell, the rich are getting richer on the backs of rank-and-file workers who are getting poorer.
Raising the wages for fast-food workers is a racial imperative as well as an economic imperative. Twenty-two percent of African American and Latino men work in low-wage jobs compared to 14 percent of white men. Among employed women, 28 percent of blacks and a third of Latinas are in low-wage service jobs, compared with 20 percent of white women.
The nation’s fundamental promise of being able to attain a middle-class lifestyle if you work hard has been broken for too many.
We need look no further than our history for greater understanding of why low-wage working people are walking off the job and, more importantly, why we need their movement to succeed. In 1963, organized labor backed the historic March on Washington and the broader civil rights movement because we believed “the fight for decent wages and working conditions will fail,” without widespread economic empowerment. Now we’re going backward. There is hope for change, however, if we shift our thinking and enact policies that reward hard work not just wealthy shareholders and corporate bosses.
Valarie Long serves as an executive vice president of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
1 of 31
2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
2 of 31
3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
3 of 31
4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
4 of 31
5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
5 of 31
6 of 31
7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
7 of 31
8 of 31
9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
9 of 31
10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
10 of 31
11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
11 of 31
12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
12 of 31
13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
13 of 31
14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
14 of 31
15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
15 of 31
16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
16 of 31
17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
17 of 31
18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
18 of 31
19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
19 of 31
20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
20 of 31
21. Bae #retailtherapy
21 of 31
22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
22 of 31
23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
23 of 31
24. Diggy Simmons
24 of 31
25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
25 of 31
26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
26 of 31
27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
27 of 31
28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
28 of 31
29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
29 of 31
30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
30 of 31
31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
31 of 31