FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – When Renee Smith comes to work at Burger King, she takes some pride in working her way up from a starting wage of $8.50 an hour to now making $11 an hour.

Yet that isn’t enough. Smith, 43, is a mother of four children and one grandchild, all under the same roof. She and her husband have struggled for years to make ends meet.

“I’ve been working here for four years,” she said. “When you’re in a place long enough, you get comfortable and it’s hard to leave.”


                                                                                                  Renee Smith said she struggles to make ends meet at Burger King. Photo: Katie Serrano

Smith’s husband is a farmer and she said they have to rely on their oldest daughter to help support them.

“We are surviving,” she said. “We are nowhere near where I want to be.”

When it comes to budgeting, Smith and her family focus on putting food on the table.

“Food is what we got to use our paychecks for first. I’ll get my hair and nails done when I can to look nice or splurge on the girls and buy them a new pair of shoes, but that’s about it,” she said.

Despite Smith’s longevity at Burger King, her current wages are not enough to get by.

“They say that they’ve increased the minimum wage ‘this’ much percent every year, but it does not make a difference,” Smith said. “I’ve worked here four years and have barely made a three dollar increase. It is by no means a livable wage.”