‘My Dad Still Supports My Daughter and Me Because My KFC Job Doesn’t Pay Enough’

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Like most young fathers, Frankie Tisdale, 26, wants a nice apartment for himself and his children. He also wants them to eat organic food, get a good education and excel in extracurriculars.

But as a fast-food worker in Brooklyn, New York, Tisdale makes less than $10 per hour. He has only found part-time work at KFC and although he tries to find other odd jobs like “painting walls, moving houses and delivering goods,” he typically takes home less than $200 a week. That’s not even enough for him to make rent. So he lives with his six-year-old daughter at his 80-year-old father’s house.

On May 15, Tisdale joined fast-food workers in over 150 US cities and 33 countries to strike for a higher minimum wage, in what is believed to be the biggest round of strikes yet. “I deserve to get $15 per hour. I want to feel like a man,” says Tisdale. “In America, if you decide to have a family, you should have the opportunity to support the family.”

Tisdale’s father — who served in the Navy before driving trucks for a living — still supports him. Tisdale’s son, 7, lives with his mother and visits on weekends.

Tisdale’s wages are on par with other fast-food workers across the country — who, according to a recent Demos report, are the lowest paid in the economy. Fast-food employees earn $9.09 per hour on average. That translates to less than $19,000 per year for a full-time worker. The report points out that a full-time worker’s paycheck would leave a family of three below the federal poverty line, and that most fast-food workers, like Tisdale, are hired part-time.

Even as he joins the minimum wage campaign, Tisdale is actively searching for work to supplement his income from his KFC job. A trained medical assistant and security guard, he spends his free time looking for jobs online on sites like snagajob.com, monster.com and worknowamerica.com. “I’m looking at all kinds of jobs — janitorial jobs, maintenance jobs and medical assistance jobs,” he says.

He looks forward to getting interview calls, but says the only time he got lucky in the last few months was with KFC. “I applied for many jobs, but KFC was the one that gave me a job offer,” says Tisdale. The other places he has been applying to often tell him that he is “overqualified or underqualified.”

Tisdale once dreamed of becoming a doctor, but now hopes to someday become a registered nurse. “I have studied the human anatomy in my training as a medical assistant and just need to brush up,” he says, waving at a stack of books from a medical assistant course he did two years ago at a local school.

A higher minimum wage, says Tisdale, would help him achieve his educational and career goals. “A $15 minimum wage will help me save some money to go to school to train to be a nurse,” he says. “I plan to continue working part-time while at school, so a higher wage would definitely make it easier for me to pay my bills.”

Neha Tara Mehta is a multimedia journalist based in India, and a former digital research associate at BillMoyers.com. She is a dual degree graduate from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the School of International and Public Affairs. Previously, she worked at Al Jazeera English in New York City. She also worked as a print reporter in India for several years and has reported from Pakistan, Australia and Italy. Follow her on Twitter: @NehaTaraMehta.

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