Kora Brown: Life not easy in fast-food lane

February 10, 2014 

My name is Kora Brown. I’m 24 years old, and I was born and raised in Durham. I’m a single mother of a beautiful baby boy named Jacob.

My first job in fast food was in a Chick-fil-A when I was 16 years old, and I’ve been working in retail and fast food jobs ever since. The only time I haven’t been working was when I was pregnant.

Even though I have years of work experience, when I started my job at Burger King I still started at the bottom, getting paid the bare legal minimum of $7.25. Almost a year later I only make $7.40 an hour.

Every day I wake up and run around and take care of my son and then head straight to work. I work nights and help close the restaurant sometimes at 1 or 2 in the morning. In a typical work-night I work three different positions at once: drive through, front counter and kitchen support.

People may think fast food is an easy job but we work hard for the little we make. I can’t afford a place of my own or day care for my son, so I’m lucky that my mother helps me and watches Jacob while I’m at work; otherwise I’m not sure what we would do. I love helping customers and I’m good at what I do, but the wages are so low it makes it very hard to get by day by day.

When you get a check for $100 after a week of work, it goes by in a flash, paying for food and diapers and other necessities. For the past couple of years it has been incredibly difficult as a single mother working in fast food. I felt like I had no choice but to suffer in silence. When I would talk to management I was often told, “There’s nothing we can do.” It really feels like no one cares about us, even though we are good people who work hard and make companies like McDonalds and Burger King a lot of money.

When I heard about the movement of workers fighting for $15 an hour and a union, I wasn’t sure at first. However, after going online and looking up more information, seeing all the photos of workers like me in other cities, standing up and speaking out for a change, I felt inspired. It gave me hope. I finally felt like I wasn’t alone. It is scary to stand up for yourself at first, but now I believe that this movement is our only option, because we need to be heard.

On Martin Luther King Day fast food workers had a speak out at my Burger King in Durham, and it felt really empowering to be in a crowd of workers sharing how we are struggling right now. I felt heard, and I believe that we as workers are doing justice to Dr. King’s memory by standing up.

Dr. King believed in nonviolent protest and we as workers are letting these fast-food companies know that we are people too and we deserve a living wage. My hope is that the movement continues to grow and that we can encourage a change across the nation.

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