Every day, I serve food to some of the most powerful people on earth, including many of the senators who are running for president: I’m a cook for the federal contractor that runs the US Senate cafeteria. But today, they’ll have to get their meals from someone else’s hands, because I’m on strike.
I am walking off my job because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty. Many senators canvas the country giving speeches about creating “opportunity” for workers and helping our kids achieve the “American dream” – most don’t seem to notice or care that workers in their own building are struggling to survive.
I’m a single father and I only make $12 an hour; I had to take a second job at a grocery store to make ends meet. But even though I work seven days a week – putting in 70 hours between my two jobs – I can’t manage to pay the rent, buy school supplies for my kids or even put food on the table. I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps so that my kids don’t go to bed hungry.
I’ve done everything that politicians say you need to do to get ahead and stay ahead: I work hard and play by the rules; I even graduated from college and worked as a substitute teacher for five years. But I got laid-off and I now I’m stuck trying to make ends meet with dead-end service jobs.
American voters should ask themselves: if presidential candidates won’t help the workers who serve them every day, will they really help the millions of low-wage American workers who they don’t know or see? I’m a Bible-believing Christian, just like a lot of the candidates. Scripture says to “Love your neighbor” and “Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s a shame too few candidates follow the guidance of the book in which they say they believe.
My employer, Compass Group, is renewing its contract with the US government today – but none of the senators or government officials to whom we serve food asked me or my co-workers whether this multinational corporation, headquartered in the United Kingdom, is treating American workers right. No-one bothered to check if the company that makes billions in profits is paying workers a living wage and offering decent benefits so we don’t have to use public aid programs to meet our basic needs. We the workers sure have an opinion when it comes to federal contract renewals – but no one cared enough to ask us.
President Obama and each presidential hopeful should have to tell all Americans whether they will stop giving US contracts to extremely profitable companies who pay their workers so little that we have to rely on public assistance programs like food stamps. Otherwise, all their rhetoric about wanting American workers to get ahead is just empty words.
My co-workers and I are on strike because we want the current president – and those running to succeed him – to make sure that federal contracts are preferentially awarded to good American companies that pay workers a living wage, offer decent benefits like paid leave and allow us to collectively bargain so that we don’t need to strike to have our voices heard.
Most of the candidates know where to find me. I’ll be eagerly awaiting a response.
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