Ciara Cody understands what it means to struggle to make ends meet. Her previous jobs failed to pay enough to cover basic living costs. As a single mother, she found it difficult to pay for rent, bills and childcare for her daughter. This, despite living with and sharing costs with her mother to save money. This all changed when Ciara started working for living wage employer, Illegal Pete’s. Her mother also works at Illegal Pete’s, and together they are able to provide a healthier life for three generations.
Hired as a line worker in 2016, Ciara now serves as the Catering Coordinator at Illegal Pete’s Denver Tech location – and she has no plans to leave. “The benefits are endless,” says Ciara, citing a good hourly wage, paid time off, sick days, and health benefits. But for Ciara, the monetary benefits are really an expression of how Pete’s workplace culture allows for good quality of life. Ciara loves the people she works with. “I feel like when I leave home, I’m not really leaving home. I’m coming to a different home, with a different family. Pete embraces us to be who we are.”
As a mother of a young child, this is essential. When she first started working at Illegal Pete’s, her daughter was barely a year old. Ciara was clear upon being hired that she couldn’t work nights or weekends. Her superiors didn’t bat an eye and gave her a schedule that worked for her family.
Because of the flexible schedule, coupled with financial security, Ciara has more energy and time for her daughter. “I’m a much happier person when I leave work. I’m more engaged with my kid at home. I wake up everyday and enjoy coming to work. I don’t feel as stressed on bills and rent.”
Ciara recalls a time when her daughter was very sick and she needed to miss a week of work. Worried that she would have to choose between being a good mom and keeping her job – which she knew could sometimes be the case in this industry – Ciara was instead offered a helping hand. “Having the peace of mind of people saying, ‘don’t worry, we’ve got it covered’ – that’s more important that anything else.”
It’s this sense of mutual respect that keeps her and her colleagues at Pete’s for a very long time. It’s the respect that an employer shows when paying a living wage and ensuring a decent life for their workers, and the returned respect of a loyal and dedicated workforce. Working at Illegal Pete’s is not a stagnant career; once an employee proves to be a hard worker, they’re regularly promoted within the organization. Ciara herself started as a burrito roller.
Ciara knows this is why people don’t leave, and believes it absolutely benefits the company’s bottom line. “If I was a business owner and I was going to invest money in people, I want to be sure they’re going to stick around.”
“Usually people don’t stay in the food business. But Pete is investing in his people enough that you’re almost afraid to leave because you don’t know if you’re going to be treated this well anywhere else.”
Ciara never imagined she’d be this happy and committed in a fast casual restaurant, and she finds Pete himself a true inspiration. “He wants to make an impact in the community and make sure he’s taking care of his people. Rather than buying himself a yacht, he’d rather give everyone a $3/hour raise.”
She admits that money doesn’t equal happiness. But when you’re treated well that’s the complete package.