The four workers, who served on a panel, shared their experiences and struggles as well as why they feel the minimum wage should be $15.
“I work 60 hours a week and have hardly no time with my 5-year-old daughter,” said Ebony Hughes, who holds three different minimum wage jobs. “My income is always in the negative when it comes to that math — the math of life.”
Eric Winston, a Waffle House employee, said he makes $2.19 an hour plus tips.
He highlighted the racial aspects of inequality and how he feels that nobody should have to live this way.
“It really ties into a racial issue of equality, financial equality, access to equal education, safe communities from theft and police violence,” Winston said.
“I deserve more, you deserve more, your future deserve more, my kids, everybody deserves more. There’s a value in black life and black work.”
While many panelists had written speeches, the fourth panelist stood up and spoke extemporaneously about her experience.
“I’m not getting a raise from any of the jobs I’m working, but my rent kept going up and up every year,” said Shawnette Lubin, a certified nursing assistant.
Lubin attended nursing school, expecting the education would improve her job options.
“I thought that education would be a safety net, and it wasn’t,” she said.
Lubin is currently living in a homeless shelter with her two children. She said she makes $8 an hour.
All the speakers discussed how there are so many factors that are not considered when thinking about minimum wage work, such as childcare, rising rent and unavailable raises.
“We can’t afford to quit — the lights go off if we quit,” Hughes said.
The panelists answered questions after the event, which led to discussions about privilege, oppression and lack of understanding from managers and supervisors.
“If (managers) had to walk in our shoes, they would care more,” Bell said. “We have the hardest jobs, and no one cares.”
The event was held to raise awareness for a march in Raleigh on April 15, organized in support of raising the minimum wage.
“There are people out there that want to see people doing good,” Winston said.