I am a cashier at the US Capitol. I earn so little that I work two jobs

By:  Sontia Bailey

Not many lobbyists enjoy as much access to US Senators as I do. I’m a cashier at the cafe inside the US Capitol.

Every morning, senators make a pit-stop where I work to grab coffee, oatmeal and granola bars on their way to the Senate floor to give speeches and cast votes. They warmly greet me with “Hey Sontia, how you doing?” as I ring them up. I always respond with a smile and say “I’m fine, thank you.”

I know that we’re just exchanging pleasantries over the cash register. But I often wonder if these senators really want – or care enough – to know about my life.

The truth is that I’m far from fine – recently, my life took a tragic turn.

Even though I work full-time at the US Capitol, I only earn $10.59 an hour. Because the federal contractor that operates the cafe pays me so little, I had to pick-up a second job at KFC to make ends meet. It may be hard to believe, but Colonel Sanders actually pays me more than Uncle Sam does: I make $11 an hour at my fast food job.

I put in 70 hours a week, Monday through Sunday. I wake up at 6am to work the breakfast rush at the Capitol and then clock out around 6pm to hop on the metro to make it to my second shift at KFC. I get home around 1am in the morning, get a few hours of sleep if I’m lucky, and then start the routine all over again.

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