Worker Voices

Terrence Wise

I’m a second-generation fast-food worker in Kansas City, Missouri. I’m 40 years old, I work at McDonald’s, and I’m a leader in the Fight for $15 and a Union movement. My fiancée and I have three teenage girls. Despite 20 years of experience in fast food, I’m paid less than $15 an hour, have no paid sick days, employer healthcare or vacation and have to rely on public assistance to support my family.

When my coworkers and I join together to fight for better pay and working conditions, McDonald’s hides behind its franchisees and says it can’t do anything to change things.  But we all know McDonald’s is the boss. When I go to work, I put on a McDonald’s uniform. I serve food from McDonald’s menu, according to McDonald’s protocol.

Yet McDonald’s says when workers are harassed on the job at a franchise store, it’s not the corporation’s problem. When workers are paid so little we need public assistance to survive, it’s not the corporation’s problem. When we experience violence on the job, again, not the corporation’s problem. And when we join together and demand the right to a union, Corporate McDonald's fights us every step of the way.

Six years ago, even with me working two full-time fast-food jobs, my family lost our first home. My daughters have memories of getting ready for school and watching their parents put on work uniforms in our idling purple minivan in sub-zero temperatures.

Instead of using its billions in profits to treat us workers with respect, McDonald’s has used its corporate power in every way possible to avoid responsibility for me and my coworkers. Through my organizing, I’ve met people who work for other fast food companies, retail stores, hospitals and airports and they all want the same thing – to have a voice that matters and that their bosses have to listen to.

This Clean Slate framework to build worker power would give workers like me a fighting chance to come together in a new way to improve our lives, families and communities and make sure companies like McDonald’s don’t wield all the power in our economy.

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