Low Wage Workers and the 'Fight For 15': Part 3

Terrence Wise is involved in the national movement "Fight For 15," which argues for an increase in the federal minimum wage.
6:17 | 01/14/17

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Transcript for Low Wage Workers and the 'Fight For 15': Part 3
We head out into the middle of the country, to Kansas City, where we meet Terrence wise. He's another American who believes you build a life on hard work. He leaves home at 5:30 and returns 16 hours later. He records the beginning of his day. Just like everybody in America, heading to work. Trying to take care of my family. Morning. How you doing? Reporter: When we meet him, he has two jobs, at fast food franchises. One at burger king, a second at McDonald's. It takes him eight buses to commute to and from his work. There's three more buses to go. Thank you. Reporter: And there's a big change in the fast food worker. Back in 1980, the majority of fast food workers were teenagers but today, 75% of these workers are in their 20s or older, a third of them with children. The American people, some may look and say, "It's something you didn't do right." And they think, "Okay, well, you should've stayed in school or you should've did this." I'm working. I have a family. We're at where we're at in this life right now. Reporter: This wasn't the life that Terrence had planned. He says he was once a smart kid in high school dreaming of the university of South Carolina, but he had to help with family bills. I've been at burger king, what, 11 years now. $8 an hour after 11 years of service. Reporter: And yet after all those buses, all those hours, he says no vacation time, no benefits. You go into these McDonald's or any restaurant, and you notice the smiling faces. But when he leaves, he goes home to little food of his own or no light or no water. Reporter: Terrence points out his hours can be reduced so his income isn't guaranteed. One of the hardest things, watching the leftover food at the end of the shift. What do they do with the food that is left over at the end of the day? Where I work, the food is thrown away. Reporter: Two years ago, a worker at another store posted this on YouTube. You see, this is all the food we have left at the end of the night that we have to throw away. Reporter: When we meet Terrence, he has already become a passionate advocate at the center of the national movement called "Fight for 15," arguing for an increase in the federal minimum wage, from $7.25. I know with $15 an hour, if it started tomorrow, I would only have to work one job. Then I would have an opportunity to go to work and then go to school. When you're paying people $7.25, you are fundamentally saying to them, "Your labor doesn't really matter here." Reporter: Our experts all agree that something has to be done for low wage Americans, but they disagree what's best. Arthur brooks of the conservative American enterprise institute says some kind of extra tax credit would be best. We have wage subsidies. A really wonky thing called the earned income tax credit. Reporter: He worries when the government dictates wages, companies cut jobs. But not everyone at this table agrees that will happen. We shouldn't require their employer to do that, because that's what will lead to the layoffs. And that's a really dangerous thing to do. This is the bogeyman we've always heard about. And all we do is protect people like us, sitting around a table. That's who gets protected. Reporter: But you know the argument they make, that they'll just have fewer jobs. That's an argument they'll make, and that we know that they have the money to pay workers a living wage. If you pay your workers, we're not going to sit on our money, we'll put it back into the economy. Reporter: The top companies in the fast food industry made combined profits of billion in 2015, while one study shows 52% of all their employees are getting some form of public assistance. Is this a way taxpayers are subsidizing the industry? Nobody wants to get food stamps. I want to go in and pull out my cash and buy my food and have insurance through my job. Reporter: And again, he says, a little more makes so much difference. To go see a movie. I haven't been to the movies since "The matrix," and I don't know if you know how old that movie is. Yup, this is our stop. Reporter: And there's another changing face of low-wage workers in America. 60% of those who make less than $10 an hour are now women, like Kim Thomas, who works up to 120 hours a week in home health care. And because so many of these women and other low-wage workers have families of their own to support, we found a new growth industry in America. Mama. Mama. Reporter: Overnight childcare. We have like about 50 children sometimes at night. Most of our parents work at Walmart. They work at fast foods. They work at the warehouses. They work at hospitals and they also work at cleaning buildings at night. Reporter: This single mother works an overnight shift at taco bell. Mommy, I'm sleepy. You got to lie down, babe. I'm sorry. Reporter: We asked McDonald's for a comment, and they said their independent franchises make their own decisions about wages and throwing away food. As of tonight, we haven't heard back from burger king. And we wanted to show you something else we learned that was surprising in the midwest. We found some low-wage workers in some very surprising places, college professors. We stopped by the campus of Washington university, tuitions nearly $49,000 a year. Erik and Dustin are adjunct professors teaching a heavy load at pay, they say, that don't add up to a living income. And is that enough for you to build a future on here? No, I mean, it's not enough to build a present on. Reporter: One study shows a quarter of part-time college professors are paid so little, they're on public assistance. Oh, we have friends on food stamps, we have friends -- Reporter: Teaching here? Teaching multiple classes. The taxpayers subsidize what our employer won't. Reporter: We ask Washington university for a comment. They told us after our visit a year and a half ago, they reached a new agreement with the union representing the adjuncts. They say they pay part-time professors more than most universities and many of the professors have other jobs. I love my job, but this is unsustainable. I can't afford to teach anymore.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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