Fast food worker fights for himself – and his 10-year-old’s future

revised-westWhen West Humbert joins those striking for a living wage on Wednesday, he’ll be thinking both about his own job and his hopes for his children.

On Wednesday, the day federal income taxes are due, organizers say they’ll hold the largest-ever mobilization of minimum wage and other low-paid workers. Fast food workers will strike in 200 cities, including Kansas City, and they’ll be joined by an expanding array of others including adjunct professors, home care, childcare, airport, industrial laundry and Walmart workers.

Humbert, who has worked at the Burger King at 47th and Troost on and off for nine years, makes $7.75 an hour. With that, he and his wife struggle to support eight children.

In part, it is his children that motivate him to join with other workers and ask for the minimum wage to be raised.

He says one day his ten-year-old put on his Burger King uniform and said he wanted to go to work at the fast food restaurant, just like his dad. And Humbert realized he doesn’t want his son to grow up in a world where he works all week and still has to choose between milk for his children and paying a utility bill like his father does now.

“We deserve not just $15 but also a union. We have to have a voice on our job.”

Humbert has joined Stand Up KC, a local group that is coordinating efforts. It is part of the national “Fight for 15” protests that began in 2012, aimed at increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15.

The Missouri minimum wage is $7.65. The city council is considering a proposal to raise it to $10 this fall and to $15 over the next four years, although state law may not allow that to happen. There are state bills pending to both raise the minimum wage as well as forbid cities from making their own wage laws.

Humbert is optimistic that the national movement is making a difference.

“I know it’s going to change,” he says. “We are the workers – the people who mop the floor – and we have no health care or paid sick days. It’s a struggle. If we organize, I think it will change.”

If it works out like he hopes, Humbert says his ten-year-old son will have a better future to look forward to.

“I want it to be so my kids can make a livable wage,” he says.

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