KFC, Carl’s Jr. & McDonald’s, San Jose, CA
I’ve worked hard for 16 years as a cook in fast food restaurants – KFC, Carl’s Jr., McDonald’s – so I’ve learned how to scramble for enough hours. I have to constantly ask my managers for more shifts, which rarely come through, so instead I have had at times to piece together two or even three part-time jobs just to get enough hours of work to pay the bills. I’ve been lucky that all three jobs kept stable schedules so I could piece them together, but my coworkers couldn’t say the same. With constantly changing schedules, they couldn’t find a second or third job.
As a part-time worker, I’ve never had health insurance, a retirement plan, nor sick days until California passed a sick leave law a couple of years ago. When I got sick, I would go to work anyway. I couldn’t afford to lose the money from my paycheck because my family was counting on the money I send home every month. I will do anything so that my children can get an education and good jobs and not go through what I have.
Juggling three jobs and supporting three kids meant I’ve had to plan everything in my life down to the penny. With average Silicon Valley apartment rents topping $3,000, I share one room in an apartment where six people live. When I first moved in I had to put down a $500 deposit for my half of the room, I cut back to eating one meal a day. I would pay my rent and cell phone on the first of every month and then try to get through the rest of the month spending as little as possible.
And, because I was paid by the hour, I also had to plan down to the minute. My shift ended at 4 pm at KFC and started at the Carl’s Jr across the street at 4 pm, so I wouldn’t eat from the start of my KFC shift until I got my break at Carl’s Jr. Given the schedules of my three jobs, I would sleep about three or four hours a night. I am not alone. San Jose, like many other cities, is suffering a crisis of underemployment. Something must be done.
See the full report in A Hidden Crisis.