KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 39-year-old KC man who has worked in fast food restaurants for more than 20 years will testify before a Congressional committee Thursday about raising the federal minimum wage.
Terrence Wise has become a national leader in the fight for a $15 minimum wage.
“I had been asking for a raise for three years,” Wise said. “I went on strike and got a raise the next day.”
It’s been 6 years since fast food workers like Wise first took to Kansas City’s streets, demanding that they be paid $15 an hour.
And what seemed like a pipe dream then, now is being considered by the U.S. House Labor and Education Committee, as Congressional representatives consider raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“I enjoy my work,” Wise said. “I work for McDonald’s. It’s a very profitable company. The second largest employer in the country, McDonald’s is. And they make profit, $5 billion a year in profit. As a corporation they can afford to pay me $15 an hour.”
The father of three has led dozens of strikes, organizing fast food workers across the nation.
He helped convince 70 percent of Kansas City voters to approve a local $15 an hour minimum wage, only to see it rolled back by the state.
Now he gets his chance to tell Congress what it’s like to live on less than $8 an hour.
“I left home this morning with a role and a half of toilet paper, worrying about I don’t get paid until Monday,” Wise said. “Being able to not have that worry, just the basic necessities. Not having to skip meals, not having to pay half on the gas, half on the lights. Being able to pay my rent in full. I’m basically one paycheck away from homelessness.”
At one time, fast food jobs were dominated by teenagers.
But the Stand Up KC movement said the latest census data shows the average fast food worker is now 32 years old.
The group claims more than half of Missourians earn less than $15 an hour, which may explain why voters in the Show Me State just approved a minimum wage hike in November, boosting pay to $12 an hour in four years.
The executive director of the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association declined to comment on camera about the Fight for $15 an hour campaign. Bill Teel told FOX4 that Missouri voters have already spoken on this issue, and his members will abide by the results.