As COVID-19 rips through my town, there’s been something eating at me lately. That something is a matter of the food industry that I usually enjoy writing about, but haven’t quite been able to admit to myself.
I’m talking, of course, about the predatory manner that fast food chains operate on. Though I could usually try to brush it off as a matter of people just using it for a second job, the truth is that COVID is bringing out a lot of very obvious issues in our system.
Perhaps one of the most jarring is the fact that many fast food chains treat their workers as serfs. They’re not paid a living wage, not given health insurance, not given sufficient hours to work…and now, they’re not even given protective gear to make others food with during a massive pandemic.
If it was just the low wages, I’d be okay with waiting it out as people begin to protest against the mistreatment. Usually, if enough people complain, they’ll do something about it. However, it never really occurred to me how predatory the industry was until the pandemic fully set in.
Right now, these companies are:
- Refusing to give hazard pay or overtime. Because risking your health for a burger makes sense.
- Still not paying a living wage. Despite the fact that many people rely on fast food jobs for income, they refuse to pay a living wage. McDonald’s training handbook even has phone numbers of welfare assistance programs because they know they don’t pay a living wage. How messed up is that?
- Demanding workers to show up despite dubious conditions. Can we admit that potentially exposing both workers and buyers to COVID-19 is bad? Can we also agree that trying to block people from calling out during a pandemic is criminal?
The restaurant industry is not a kind one. But, with local restaurants, there’s always the chance that workers can get better hours and deal with kinder bosses. Each restaurant that’s run by a mom and pop setup will be more sympathetic to workers—or at least, more amenable to helping them out.
Now is the time that we need to put our collective feet down and say no more. The people who are working in corporate show such blatant disregard for the health and wellbeing of their workers on the floor, it’s appalling.
While the call of those delicious french fries and cheap food might be alluring, is it really worth the damage it does to our communities? Is seeing fast food workers risk their lives for $10 an hour really that appetizing? If you’re anything like me, that’d make you put your fork down, too.