To many people, Tax Day is simply a race to get your papers in order, claim your deductions and hope for a refund. But for someone who supports a family of three on the minimum wage, Tax Day is something else: it’s an annual reminder that I need taxpayer dollars just to survive.
That’s why this Tax Day, I’ll be travelling to Washington D.C. to join thousands of others in a historic march on the U.S. Capitol to demand an end to the rigged tax system that buoys the wealthy and corporations, but keeps working people down.
I’ve worked in the fast-food industry for six years, mostly at Wendy’s. I wake up early to get into the store by 7 am, unpack the day’s food, and man the drive-thru for hours at a time. Yet when I come home to my grandma and my seven-month-old son, Noah, after a 40-hour week, I have hardly anything to show for it. I want to be able to stand on my own two feet, but on my bi-weekly paycheck of $200, it’s impossible. I’m forced to turn to food stamps and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children to feed my family.
“Companies can afford to pay workers $15/hour -- but they choose not to because they know taxpayers will pick up the tab.”
Noah is my second child. I was forced to give my first up for adoption because my Wendy’s salary was so low that I couldn’t feed us both. The second time I got pregnant, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing another child. I took six weeks of unpaid leave to care for Noah and then I was back at Wendy’s — on my feet all day serving customers and on my feet all night caring for Noah. I thought my hard work would eventually be recognized with a raise, but nothing changed.
While my low wages have forced me to give up a child and rely on public assistance, Wendy’s rakes in many millions a year in profits. Studies even show that the industry has some of the worst pay disparity, with fast-food CEOs earning on average nearly $24 million in 2013.
Fast-food companies can afford to pay workers $15/hour ― but they choose not to because they know taxpayers will pick up the tab. National brands like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s keep loyal, hard-working employees like me on minimum wage, forcing us to turn to public assistance for food, shelter, healthcare and more. Low wages in the fast-food industry cost taxpayers $7 billion a year in public assistance. Across the economy, working families like mine account for more than three-quarter of public assistance recipients, at a cost of more than $150 billion a year to taxpayers.It’s unfair not only to the workers but also to taxpayers.
For the past two years, I’ve been a leader in the Fight for $15 – the movement for $15/hour and union rights – in Richmond. With my fellow workers I’ve walked off the job and marched in the street to make sure that everyone from President Trump to wealthy corporations hear our demand for change.
It’s no secret the system is rigged against working people. But I also believe we can change the system; America can work for the majority of us – not just the wealthy few. The thousands of people turning out to protest on Saturday confirms that by standing together and speaking out, we can change our fates and win a wage that lets us get off public assistance and support our families. We can force companies and politicians to do the right thing. We can win.
Priscilla Evans, 25, is Wendy’s worker from Richmond, Virginia.