by Tiffany Lowe —
Thousands of service workers joined forces and took to the streets in more than 25 cities across the nation, including Memphis, on July 20th.
Workers in healthcare, public transportation and fast food, like me, joined together and as we’ve done before to demand a livable wage and the right to form a union.
This time, though, felt different. We were even more specific in our fight: We were striking for Black lives.
Some might wonder how these two topics relate. I say they go hand in hand.
I’ve worked at KFC for three years to help support myself and my four children. I earn $7.85 an hour, which is barely enough to get by. We all have to share a space with a roommate since I can’t afford a home just for us.
I’m also a Black woman, who immediately thinks of my own children, especially my 19-year-old daughter, when I hear the names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and how it could have been one of them.
The majority of my co-workers and colleagues in the Fight for $15 are Black or brown. We work long hours or multiple jobs to make ends meet and still struggle to put food on the table for our children.
Now, more than ever, we see the need to fight for better working conditions.
I haven’t had the luxury to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been going to work, dealing with customers, wearing the same mask all day, which is usually well-worn by the end of my shift.
I don’t get hazard pay. I’m worried that I’ll get home and get my kids sick. But I have no other choice but to go to work. If I don’t work, my kids won’t have food.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) reports that Yum Brands, the parent company to KFC, is only second to McDonald’s in their workers relying on public assistance.
This is the reality many service workers like me, the majority Black and brown, face every single day. Not only are our livelihoods on the line, now our health is.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that Blacks are almost five times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19. The pandemic is more proof of the difference and injustice Black communities face.
I shouldn’t have to be afraid of getting pulled over by police and I shouldn’t have to be afraid of going into work. Yet, here we are.
Companies are now offering their own words to try to offer comfort. KFC tweeted “Black Lives Matter” and promised to listen and act.
I see it as a slap in the face.
They don’t care. How can they say they stand with us when they can’t even give us a livable wage?
We’re getting paid poverty wages and risking our health working on the frontlines during the pandemic. If KFC and other corporations really cared about Black lives, they’d start with their own employees.
This is why I decided to walk off the job and join the tens of thousands of other workers of all different colors and races.
We’re centering Black lives, knowing that you can’t have economic justice until you have racial justice.
You can’t have one without the other.