The reactions I’ve been reading on various websites is typical Internet Tough Guy talk: “Go to college”, Get a real job”, those kinds of things. You know, stuff they wouldn’t actually say to someone’s face.
The thing is, they and other critics are missing the point: This isn’t the late 1990s or the early 1980s. The cost of living in America has been going UP since 2000. As has the DEMAND for more employees at McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger King and other Fast Food chains. During two recent visits to the Popeyes restaurant in my neighborhood I saw patrons requesting employment papers in once instance and in another, the manager interviewing prospective employees. In both cases the applicants were clearly much older than I am. People are looking for work where ever they can find it.
When I worked for Camp Joy I made $15 an hour. Mind you, that was just for a 4 week summer program and I knew I had a job fulltime job waiting for me in September with the next school year. For a single man living in Boston, $15/hr is just enough to cover living expenses and that’s assuming you get really lucky finding a good deal on rent, anyway. Imagine someone trying to support a family on $7.25/hr. This is the reality for most fast food employees trying to keep a roof over their heads.
As I understand it, their demands are as follows:
- Minimum Wage raised to $15/hr (currently $8/hr)
- The right to Unionize
As a member of two unions myself (Boston Teacher’s Union and its national counterpart The American Federation of Teachers), knowing I have rights as an employee and they are protected is a powerful thing. For too long Fast Food employees have been denied the right to a voice given what they do. Given what they have to deal with day in and day out from customers who only seem them as people there to serve them this is the least their employers can do.
Since this is an illegal strike every employee who took part knows they can be fired for their actions. After all, the Fast Food Industry has a high employee turnover rate and regularly practices a “Hire & Fire” Policy to maintain its workforce. In English that basically means you can be easily replaced, usually the next week if not sooner. The strike is a historic moment for the industry.
Personally, I would think no one will lose their job over this. More so given the industry knew almost a year in advance about the planned strike. The workers’ strike was illegal and lasted two days but this was just limited to 7 US Cities. I’m sure the rest of the country alone made up for the lost income by the time you finish reading this blog 100 times over. Will anything come from this? I’m sure it will. At the very least I’m sure the companies will overlook the protests as a sign of good faith.
I don’t doubt for a second many of these workers like working for the company they work for. I’m sure they would like the company even more if they were guaranteed certain rights people like myself take for granted. Before you say “It’s just an entry-level JOB, not a career.”, keep this in mind: They prepare and serve your food. Every now and then you hear about some random object or body part being found in someone’s burger or chicken nugget and someone being paid a 6-figure settlement. Allowing Fast Food Workers to Uniionize would also add a greater level of accountability at the restaurant level.
Since I’m on the subject of Fast Food, I’ll be doing a review of a few more restaurant chains tomorrow evening.