Fast-Food Workers Take the Fight for $15 to the White House

Chain employee Terrence Wise shared his story alongside President Barack Obama during Wednesday’s 'Summit on Worker Voice.'
Oct 9, 2015·
TakePart editorial fellow Nicole Mormann covers a variety of topics, including social justice, entertainment, and environment.

McDonald’s may be gaining national attention this week for the release of its all-day breakfast menu, but the president is apparently more interested in its employees, who scramble in more ways than one to put food on the table for themselves and their families.

On Wednesday, second-generation fast-food worker Terrence Wise took the podium to introduce none other than President Barack Obama at the "White House Summit on Worker Voice." The summit focused on addressing economic inequality and ensuring that workers are able to make their voices heard in the workplace. The 36-year-old, who has been a leading voice in the fight to increase the minimum wage for fast-food employees, shared his story with the crowd of onlookers—including his mom, a career fast-food worker.

“Despite my work in nearly two decades in this industry, I make just $8 an hour working at McDonald’s and Burger King. That ain’t right,” said Wise in his speech.

Since 2014, Wise has led a series of public demonstrations in the Fight for $15 movement, which aims to raise the minimum wage to $15 for all fast-food workers and grant them the right to form a union. Though a number of cities, including Los Angeles and Seattle, have passed laws to raise local wages to $15 within the next few years, the federal minimum remains $7.25—an hourly amount not even equal to the price of two Big Macs.

Wise explained that sometimes he, his fiancée, and their three girls have to skip meals. His fiancée, who has worked in home health care for 12 years, makes $10 an hour.

“We’ve been homeless, while I’ve been working two jobs, and I barely get to see my daughters,” he said.

Though making minimum wage has brought extreme hardship, Wise said his life turned around once he joined Fast Food Workers Across America and took a stance on ensuring the future was encouraging for him and his daughters.

“I have seen firsthand how we are heard and how we make change when workers like us, in this room, stick together,” Wise said. “We are united as working people, as moms and dads, and as proud Americans to make sure all work pays to what we need to support our families.”

The president would appear to agree. “Their story describes why we want to have this summit; their story describes why workers need a voice,” Obama said.