capitalism

I serve food to the most powerful people on earth, but I need food stamps to feed my kids

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Tell us this, Mr Senator: when will all federal contractors be paid a living wage? Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

Oh, the irony! For all the flack Walmart’s been catching for paying its employees crap and benefitting from tax-payer funded welfare benefits, Americans would be wise to remember that Walmart is not alone in its infamy, as it’s only the country’s second largest low-wage employer. The US government through its “contractors” is number one.

Meet Bertrand Olotara. He’s one fed up cook for the US Senate and his story is all too familiar for many Americans.

Every day, I serve food to some of the most powerful people on earth, including many of the senators who are running for president: I’m a cook for the federal contractor that runs the US Senate cafeteria. But today, they’ll have to get their meals from someone else’s hands, because I’m on strike.

I am walking off my job because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty. Many senators canvas the country giving speeches about creating “opportunity” for workers and helping our kids achieve the “American dream” – most don’t seem to notice or care that workers in their own building are struggling to survive.

I’m a single father and I only make $12 an hour; I had to take a second job at a grocery store to make ends meet. But even though I work seven days a week – putting in 70 hours between my two jobs – I can’t manage to pay the rent, buy school supplies for my kids or even put food on the table. I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps so that my kids don’t go to bed hungry.

I’ve done everything that politicians say you need to do to get ahead and stay ahead: I work hard and play by the rules; I even graduated from college and worked as a substitute teacher for five years. But I got laid-off and I now I’m stuck trying to make ends meet with dead-end service jobs.

American voters should ask themselves: if presidential candidates won’t help the workers who serve them every day, will they really help the millions of low-wage American workers who they don’t know or see? I’m a Bible-believing Christian, just like a lot of the candidates. Scripture says to “Love your neighbor” and “Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s a shame too few candidates follow the guidance of the book in which they say they believe.

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