Fifty-year-old Glenn Johnson is paid about $14,000 a year working at a Miami-area Burger King, just minutes away from the fast food company's corporate headquarters. The company recently reported a 37 percent increase in its quarterly profit.
Johnson has worked at Burger King since last year, cleaning and stocking the customer area. Nationwide, activists are seeking a $15 wage for fast food workers like Johnson. This is his story.
I first got into the fast food industry in 1983. So I know lots about fast food, short order, prep cook, cook, all that. So many places, they don’t want to pay anything. If I could get the right salary, I’d be glad to get back into just cooking. Those opportunities are slim to none.
A typical day is like hell. Pure hell.
I’m running backwards and forwards all day in that lobby, opening the door for the bathroom, the men’s and the women’s, then I’m making sure the table’s cleaned, and you’ve got people in there that leave their stuff on the table, paper stuff scattered everywhere, you’ve got someone wasting soda, then I have to check the garbage, then I’m trying to fill the ice machine, and here comes somebody coming in and they want to use the restroom.
Sometimes, I get home and I’m so tired, I eat dinner, take a shower, lay down to watch TV, and I’m going to sleep. Next morning comes. I’m tired, but I'm trying to make it.
If I don’t take a day off, I probably get around 35 hours a week. I would like anywhere from 40 to 50 hours a week. There are no benefits. I’m getting ready to come up on a vacation. You don’t get paid for vacation, so I might as well just work it.
I don’t have health insurance because I don’t have enough money to get health insurance.
If I’ve got a cold or something, I go get some cold medicine, or some Tylenol or something. Take that, and just go on to work. I don’t have money for a hospital. You go to the hospital, they type you up on that computer, and that’s $1,000 right there. Then what? They bill you. I can’t do it. I get some Cold-Eeze or some kind of Tylenol Cold or something. I’ve got that Vicks VapoRub, I use that and go about my business.
I make $7.93 per hour. I haven’t gotten a raise yet.
The stuff I have to go through and deal with every day, the attitudes and all, I figure the money they’re paying me, with the customers -- what they’re saying and what they’re calling me -- it’s not worth it.
[The managers] are young and they’re good at cursing you out ... I think the youngest one is about maybe 18. The oldest, 26. In management! I have to let them know, "I ain’t no child. You’re old enough to be my child. You aren’t going to talk to me like a little child. You talk to me like an adult, and we can get along just fine." I tell them that all the time.
My rent is $765 a month. Rent takes up three weeks plus [in pay]. It’s real tight; there’s not much left over. I have to put gas in the car to go to work. I figure if I can’t [afford something], I just have to do without until I can find a better job, a better pay.
I don’t have a computer [to look for jobs]. If I’m out on a Saturday and I see something, maybe I’ll get their phone number or something like that. Sunday, we’re in church.
I would love to see the wages get raised. But man, they’re so cheap. That’s a multimillion-dollar corporation, Burger King, and they’re so cheap. They’re real cheap.
A lady came in [to Burger King] – she’s from church, her husband’s a pastor -- she came in there with another lady and was talking about [a $15 minimum wage]. And I had heard about it on the TV … and I said, "Yeah I like that, if I can get it. That’ll be good for me." That’ll take me off the borderline and I could see my way through paying my rent -- and I have a light bill, I have cable, I have two cars out there that need gas. It’s tight. I tell my wife she might want a new dress or something.
Everything’s going up but the wages. You go in the store and get one tomato; that’s damn near almost 2 dollars. Gas is going up, the groceries are going up. They just went up on the lights, what, 5 percent? People around here are struggling; it’s hard. It’s really hard.
If the CEO of Burger King was sitting here right now, I’d tell him I need a raise. More money, more hours. Simple as that. Because with the little hours I get, and that little pay I get, and I’m dealing with those customers all day coming in there, it’s really not worth it.
But I just keep on pushing. I just keep on. I know it’s hard, but I’ve got to do it.
As told to Janie Campbell. Glenn's story has been edited for length and clarity.
In response to Glenn's story, Burger King said in an emailed statement that the company "provides an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans." The company did not respond to questions concerning their benefits and scheduling policies.