The struggle to survive in an affluent county without a living wage

Sophia Marjanovic, a Progressive Maryland activist in Montgomery County, spoke at the signing of MoCo’s $15/hr minimum wage measure Monday, Nov. 13. She described everyday life with no margin and the vulnerabilities that brings.

Sophia Marjanovic, a Progressive Maryland activist in Montgomery County, spoke at the signing of MoCo’s $15/hr minimum wage measure Monday, Nov. 13.

 

I first got involved with the Fight for $15 while struggling as a fast food worker in Arizona with unstable hours that not only affected my son and me, but my whole network who helped drive me to work and watch my son.  I experienced the trauma of domestic violence just after my son was born and had to leave everything behind for our safety, which meant starting over while trying to make ends meet on part-time schedules and low wages in the fast food industry.

Despite being a graduate student at NIH in Bethesda, I struggled to make enough to live alone independently in Montgomery County.  Instead I have had to live with roommates and endured an unstable housing situation because I did not earn enough to make ends meet.

I had to put food on the table for my son and relied on family and friends for transportation to work and to watch my son, sometimes only to be told I had to go back home because business was slow. That is why I joined the Fight for $15. 

ff15_signing_sophia_cropped.jpgI ended up working 3-5 irregular jobs at a time in order to try to make ends meet and I still had to apply for food stamps, WIC and go to diaper banks and churches for access to diapers, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary napkins, etc.  My teeth began to rot and crumble out of my mouth as I struggled with my personal nutrition as I always ensured that my son ate first and then I ate his scraps. 

Before this experience, I really did not know exactly how tortuous poverty is.  The uncertainty in my life made it nearly impossible to focus on anything other than survival, including write my PhD thesis. And the lack of stable housing was successfully used against me in family court by my abuser as I lost custody of my son to my abuser in 2014.

It has been a struggle to live in Montgomery County as housing prices still are an issue.   I am doing my best to keep my head above water, am always in the process of scaling down my expenses to make ends meet and this is why I have shown up so passionately to pressure our county council to pass a $15/hr minimum wage.

 

Thank you for finally passing a $15/hr minimum wage bill.  It cannot come soon enough for so many of us who have struggled. We still have a lot of work to do, and I look forward to working with you on the many other issues that impact our communities.