Mike Spering, Restaurant Worker
Mike Spering lives in Somerville and has worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years as a runner, bus boy, host, and server. He is also a graduate student at Lesley University.
“I have been surviving solely on tips for 15 years working in the restaurant industry. Some weeks there wasn’t enough to cover rent and food without the help of credit cards and student loans. Living off tips is a balance between doing without and working as many hours as possible. For me, doing without meant relying on friends and family to house and feed me.
I am single and I have trouble supporting myself as a tipped restaurant worker. I can’t imagine attempting to raise a family on tips. Sometimes, I don’t make at least the minimum wage. There are times when I’ve showed up to work only to earn less than $3 an hour.”
Aubretia Edick, Walmart Worker
Aubretia Edick has worked as a Walmart cashier for 13 years. She is also an activist with OUR (Organization United for Respect) Walmart, fighting for higher wages, respect and a voice on the job for all Walmart workers.
“I make $11.40 an hour, which is not enough for me to support myself. It’s barely enough to cover the cost of my food and insurance. It upsets me how companies like Walmart treats its employees and surrounding neighborhoods.
Kilra Hylton, Personal Care Attendant
In addition to caring for her own children as a single mother, Kilra cares for local seniors and people with disabilities as a Personal Care Attendant (PCA). With rent taking up more than half her pay check, unpredictable hours, and limited food stamp availability, Kilra and her family are barely scraping by. She feels like there should be more opportunities for low wage workers to get ahead. Despite recent gains made by PCAs to improve wages, Kilra and many other home care workers – including agency and private pay home care workers – are still struggling to support their families. Home care workers are often living in poverty despite the increasing demand and need for their services as the U.S. population ages. When Kilra works more hours at a low wage, she loses public assistance in healthcare and food stamps. When she works less hours, she makes less money and struggles to financially support her family.
As an active member of 1199SEIU, Kilra is vocal about her participation:
“We are fighting so we can live more comfortably. We need a steppingstone to get ahead. Once I found out that the union is fighting for me, I felt like I owed it to myself to be involved. People need to know that so we can all be a part of the struggle.”
Pierre Duchemin, Taxi Driver
“Everyone is making money off my work as a taxi driver, except for me. The big owners and the credit card companies all take their piece. Credit card companies take 6% of all my fares. The taxi industry is like sharecropping. I have to pay to work. At the end of a 17 to 21 hour shift, after I have paid off the fleet owners and credit card companies for the right to drive a taxi, I am often left with less than the minimum wage. Each month I struggle to make rent and I am in constant debt. The taxi industry humiliates its workers. We have no voice under the Boston Police Hackney and Carriage Unit’s regulation. This is why we are organizing as taxi drivers, to win a voice, keep more of our earnings and make a livable wage, and be free of the corruption and exploitation that plagues our industry.
Darius Cephas, Fast Food Worker
Darius Cephas is a 23 year-old, Boston-area McDonald’s worker.
“Wages need to go up if you’re going to make it in today’s society. Everything’s going up, but our wages stay the same – something’s got to give. I have to make sacrifices everyday: where I live, what I eat, if I have a phone.
If I had higher wages, I could get my own apartment. There would be no more living paycheck to paycheck. There have been times when I had to struggle with paying my phone bill or eating. I’ve had to train my body to require less food. I eat once a day, sometimes not at all.”
Carmen Ramirez, Child Care Provider
Carmen Ramirez has been a provider in Lowell, MA since 2009. She is one of the newest members of SEIU Local 509, as Child Care providers fought for eight years to pass legislation to allow them to unionize and just ratified their first union contract.
“I needed a union to have a voice and a community that shares in our problems, answer questions about being a provider, and because I work hard 12 hours every day. I know other providers and people in other jobs who have to work more than one job too, in order to survive. Childcare providers get together to mentor in the community and to support each other in Lowell.
It is important that all people who do not make a living wage support each other. Especially as people who educate and provide service to the community, child care providers should be treated with respect and a living wage.”
Rev. Jane Gould, St Stephens Episcopal Church
Rev Gould is a leader in Essex County Community Organization (ECCO) and Board member of MA Communities Action Network (MCAN). Rev. Jane Soyster Gould has served as Rector at St. Stephen’s since December 2000. A graduate of Stanford University and Episcopal Divinity School, she has worked in urban, suburban, and campus ministry in the Diocese of Massachusetts since her ordination in 1986. She is passionate about congregational ministry and committed to God’s work of justice.
“From Hebrew Scripture to Christian texts to the Koran, our holy books speak of justice. Our faith traditions challenge us in word and deed to love God and our neighbor. The Prophet Mohammed said, “None of you has faith unless you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” While Jesus announced, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” The prophet Jeremiah proclaimed: “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, and does not give them their wages.”
For us, protecting the poorest workers among us with a reasonable minimum wage that keeps up with inflation through indexing is a moral issue — not a political issue.”