Zharia Harper is 18 years old and a recent graduate from Berkeley High. While Zharia was completing school in June, her mom was finishing up a program to become a Pharmaceutical Technician. The certification hours didn’t allow her mother to work, so Zharia’s $8/h paycheck from McDonald’s had to cover their rent and bills.
Of this difficult month Zharia says (shaking her head with her hands near her face) “June was hard, it was really something.”
Zharia is a gifted dancer and part of an African Dance performance group. She is attending Laney Community College in the fall and plans to transfer to a 4-year university where she can study Environmental Agriculture and Politics. She’s been working at McDonald’s for about a year and became involved with the East Bay Fast Food Workers through a coworker. Zharia started going to meetings and learning about the struggle for a $15 wage and the right to organize. This all made sense to her. Especially given how hard it is for she and her mom (who currently also works for minimum wage pending her certification) to make ends meet.
Zharia is a straight-shooter, she has had one run-in with management at McDonald’s when she tried to do the right thing (after forgetting to clock out) but was threatened with suspension for a week because the work climate is one of “guilty” before proven innocent. In the end, Zharia was vindicated… But it was an eye-opener.
When asked what $15 an hour would mean to her Zharia says:
“$15 would make a huge difference. It would help with college. I could put money aside. I could help my mom.”
Going to Chicago is a milestone, it is the first-ever fast food workers convention and It will be the first time Zharia has ever been in a plane. She looks forward to hearing the stories of other workers and meeting new people like her who want to change things.