HARRISONBURG -- Thousands of fast food workers are walking off the job today in seven major cities, protesting for increased wages and the right to form a union.
Workers are trying to live at a time when earning minimum wage just isn't enough to get by, many struggling to make ends meet.
Trey Richardson finally got a job at a factory but for years he worked in fast food.
"On average I was probably bringing home about $200 every two weeks." says Richardson.
He says that's an unlivable wage.
An EMU economics professor says minimum wage hasn't changed with inflation.
"In real terms the wage that is being paid today is less than the wage that was being paid to workers in 1960." says Walt Surratt, an EMU economics professor.
In fast food you often make minimum wage. Richardson says even that job is hard to come by.
"If it's not a factory or you don't know somebody who can get you a high paying job, you're basically stuck." says Richardson.
Surratt agrees, "you cant move up in a fast food environment. The idea would be to educate yourself in an area other than fast food."
Richardson says he would look for another job everyday after work because he couldn't survive.
"While you're working there, you still take the time to look for other things, other opportunities. Even if you don't get them you still have to look." say Richardson.
A lot of times the jobs you find are not in the area.
Surratt says in theory, "you move to where the jobs are, well in reality that doesn't always work."
Even within the city of Harrisonburg it can be tough.
Richardson says, "you got to take what you can get, especially if you dont have transportation."
Richardson has to make sacrifices. One of them his most important thing in life, his daughter.
"You got to feed yourself. You gotta feed her. You can't just tell a child no. She might see something she like you just can't tell her no," says Richardson.
Richardson is still struggling to get 40 hours a week but he's finally making more than minimum wage.
"Minimum wage is not doing it for nobody, especially not for me." says Richardson.
Surratt says that more than 21 million people in the United States are earning minimum wage.
Many of those, like Richardson, are trying to support a family.
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