By Maggie Freleng
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
If you're working at Burger King, 22, and have three children, you don't make enough. You're part of a low-wage work force that is predominantly female and--as of a few months ago--starting to protest.
NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)--Pamela Flood, 22, a mother of three, is a worker at Burger King in Brooklyn, N.Y., struggling to avoid becoming a statistic.
"People, especially with children, should not be making $7.25 an hour," said Flood at a Nov. 29 fast food walkout, what energized organizers in the Fast Food Forward campaign are calling the biggest effort in the United States to unionize fast food workers.
"Then you become a statistic of the public assistance system, a statistic of the welfare system . . . This is a big woman's issue, especially women with kids, because at the end of the day if you have nobody to help you and all you have is your job and that money is falling short, where else do you turn to?" she said.
Flood is also part of another set of statistics. These surround young, female, low-wage workers who are trying to squeeze a living out of meager wages while contending with pressures that range from--and sometimes come all at once --childrearing, schooling and student debt.
Women make up two-thirds of fast food workers in New York, according to a report by Fast Food Forward.
If that reflects a national trend it's not a good financial sign for women. The national median hourly wage for "food service and preparation workers," jobs that include prep cooks, deli workers and fast food servers, is $8.76 an hour, lower than all other reported occupations, reported Fast Food Forward.
Women made up about two-thirds of all workers who were paid minimum wage or less in 2011 and 61 percent of full-time minimum wage workers, according to the National Women's Law Center, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A woman working full time, year round at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour earns just $14,500. For a family of three, that means her income falls below the poverty line by more than $3,600.
The largest number of female workers at or below minimum wage in 2011 are under 25 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Like Flood, many of these younger workers are also trying to support children while supporting themselves.
Some are also trying to work their way through school. Oneika O'Keefe, 22, works at a hardware store in the Bronx. She and her sister, who is 20 and also a