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Soldier Turned Fast-Food Cook Makes an Impassioned Plea for Wage Increases

“I’m a man who came home after serving in Fallujah and Al-Ramadi and can’t even put food on the table for my family.”

Via YouTube

Derrell Odom is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who did two tours of duty in Iraq and earned the Purple Heart, only to return to his old job in Georgia after completing his service and make less money than when he was a teenager. When Odom worked as a cook at KFC during high school in the mid-’90s, he earned $5.50 an hour, the equivalent of $8.61 today when adjusted for inflation. Now, two decades later, Odom returned to his old job at the fast-food giant, making just $7.25 an hour. At a recent hearing before the Atlanta wage board, he told the committee, “I’m a man who came home after serving in Fallujah and Al-Ramadi and can’t even put food on the table for my family, gentlemen.”


In September, Odom told The New York Times, “I have leadership skills and led missions in Iraq. Right now, I’m trying to survive.” Odom’s story isn’t an unusual one. According to the Times, “Despite the improving economy, wages adjusted for inflation have declined across the economic spectrum since the recession ended in 2009.” In fact, in the U.S. economy, the lowest-paid fifth of workers have seen their wages decline 5.7 percent since the recession ended in 2009.

In the video below, Odom gives passionate testimony to the Atlanta wage board in support of a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights.

(H/T Fight for 15)