Local worker gives inside look at minimum wage

Wendy's employee Somalia Doyle can't afford a combo meal after working for 1 hour

Somalia Doyle, Wendy's employee

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Several days a week, you’ll find 19-year-old Somalia Doyle walking the four blocks from her house on Best Street to work.

She works at the Wendy’s at Main and Best Street near the Medical Campus.

“I’ve been working there a year and half now, almost two years,” Doyle said.

Averaging about 22 hours a week, Doyle’s paychecks barely cover school costs; she’s studying to be a criminal defense attorney.

“A book costs like $180,” she explained.

“I have to save up several checks just to get one book,” she told News 4.

A living wage is the hourly rate a person must earn to support their family as the sole provider. In Erie County, that’s $10.11.

But Doyle is one of thousands in Western New York earning the minimum wage, $8.75.

Luckily for Doyle, she’s not the only one working in her family.

In fact, all her siblings work in fast food too; her sister works with her at Wendy’s and her brother works at McDonald’s.

They all live together with her mom on Best Street.

“We all actually help my mom pay the rent, the cable bill, the electric,” Doyle said.

Factor into that school costs, $2,000 in student loans, and a $55 cell phone bill, she comes up short every month.

Doyle said because making ends meet is nearly impossible, she hasn’t been able to start saving for her future.

And she’s not alone.

Statewide, 60 percent of fast food workers need public assistance.

On a national scale, the vast majority of minimum wage workers are employed in the fast food industry.

Sen. Marc Panepinto is one of several lawmakers who think the current minimum wage is hurting everyone, not just the workers.

“We as taxpayers are subsidizing large and small corporations to allow them to pay these poverty wages,” Panepinto said.

Opponents of a minimum wage hike argue small business owners would be forced to make layoffs and cut hours.

Panepinto told News 4 from his experience speaking with fast food franchise owners, they’re not small businesses, and several of them own many franchises.

The CEO for Wendy’s took home just over $7 million last year.

“It’s about you making a decision to make a little less money so that somebody that’s making the burgers or the chicken or the tacos can at least pay for electricity, pay for diapers, pay for rent,” he said.

Doyle can’t even afford a Wendy’s meal after her shift.

“If you get a number 1 combo, a single with cheese, that comes up to $9 plus tax. I can’t even afford to get a meal if I work at Wendy’s for one hour,” she told News 4.

She’s part of the “Fight For Fifteen” movement in Western New York and has been active in the Fast Food Wage Board in Buffalo.

“I work at the busiest Wendy’s, and you have nothing but hospitals, medical fields, all around us. And I work sometimes during the morning shift when I’m out of school, and every day, every hour, you break a record. So it’s like, they can afford to give their employees more than what we make, and we deserve it,” she said.

News 4 reached out to the Wendy’s corporation for a comment and they didn’t respond.

Panepinto pushed for legislation last session that would boost minimum wage across the board up to $12.55 in Western New York; it didn’t pass, but he told News 4 it will continue to be his priority.

Buffalo’s Wage Board, which is focused solely on raising the wage for fast food workers, is getting a lot of momentum.

Doyle told News 4 until she’s making $15 an hour, she’ll keep fighting.

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