Struggling to Make Ends Meet

This photo essay features photographs of a working family in Los Angeles, made by photographer Justin L. Stewart. Here’s what’s behind the essay, in his words:

The overall employment of food and beverage serving workers and related employees is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024 -faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This same workforce has been the face of a push to raise the minimum wage with the Fight for $15 movement. Fight for $15 advocates for these workers and holds nationwide demonstrations in the hopes of increasing workers' wages, as well as receiving protection from wage theft, union rights, and other benefits they don't currently receive.

Francisco Zuniga Lazo is one of those faces. Francisco and his family of four live in Huntington Park in Los Angeles, California. For the past six years, Francisco has worked as a part-time delivery driver for Domino’s, a job he settled for after the recession cost him his previous job and almost a year of unemployment. His wife Lennis Lara makes the lion’s share of their income with her job at a child day care center. Francisco dreams of one day buying a house, but doesn't know if that’ll ever be a possibility with his and Lennis' economic reality. Between work and his family demands, he feels too overstretched to find time for a better paying job right now. 'Maybe after the kids have grown,' he says.

There’s some financial relief coming. In March of 2016, following years of protests from the Fight for $15 movement, California became the first state to raise the minimum wage to $15. While the raise to $15 is eagerly welcomed, the wait is long and the relief is slow to be felt. That’s especially true for minimum wage workers in Los Angeles, a city with one of the highest costs of living in the United States. The measure doesn't take full effect until 2023 with wages rising in increments of $1 per year. Until then, people wait for their yearly increments and continue to protest for more workers rights.

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