Bloomington Normal and Peoria fast food workers are among those walking off the job in a nationwide protest over low wages. Ciara Burrell works at Hardees' on College Avenue in Normal. Burrell says raising her pay from her current eight dollars and 25 cents per hour to 15 bucks an hour would change her life.
"My life would be a lot different. I would be able to actually afford a roof for me and my kids. I wouldn't be just working 30 minutes just to be able to afford a half a gallon of milk. I'd be able to actually go grocery shopping."
Caravina Jones has worked at Hardees' about two years, averaging about thirty hours a week. She has not had a raise. After taxes, Jones says she takes home about 600 dollars a month after taxes, not even enough to afford rent, let alone food. She is a single parent of a six year old boy.
"He's a growing boy so I have to buy clothes and shoes all the time. It is just so much. I don't have a car, so I have to pay for bus passes and it's just a lot."
Ciara Burrell says she lives with her mother because she can't afford a place of her own. Burrell says Hardees and most fast food corporations make billions in profits and government services, in effect subsidize those profits. social support that wouldn't be needed if she made fifteen dollars an hour instead of eight and a quarter.
"My government benefits would be less and that would be good for me. I would be happy with that. I wouldn't need government assistance and the taxpayers should be happy too."
Burrell says she's not worried Hardees will fire her over the protest because she doesn't have a lot left to lose.
"I feel like I am speaking out for those who are scared to speak out."
The protests also call for an end to corporate retaliation when union organizing happens.
Government figures show the median wage in Peoria and Bloomington Normal is just over $9 an hour. According to an MIT model, an adult in the twin cities with one child needs to make 18.67 an hour at a full time job just to afford the basics. Burrell says fast food businesses keep her and most workers at about thirty hours a week so the company does not have to pay benefits. Burrell says the Service Employees Union is helping her and trying to organize fast food workers in the twin cities.
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