A story in yesterday’s news rekindled my interest in the ongoing struggle of underpaid service industry workers to demand better wages, and all around better treatment, from employers like WalMart and McDonald’s. Seems an outfit called "OUR Walmart" is promoting one day wildcat strikes of Walmart workers. One was staged yesterday in Southern California, based upon the "conrete victories" resulting from a similar strike held in Florida on October 18th. OUR Walmart plans to encourage Walmart workers to strike on Black Friday and throughout the holidays, in a quest for decent wages, decent schedules and decent raises for Walmart employees. In short, they would like Walmart workers to be treated like worthwhile human beings, and they're going to make a lot of noise and inconvenience a lot of shoppers until that happens.
Hey, I’m out here rooting for those Walmart stalwarts. Walmart is no less the devil than McDonald’s when it comes to not only underpaying the help, but treating them like crap to boot.
And last weekend, Bill Moyers shared the story of the McDonald’s worker who called a Mc Donald’s employee help line looking for help getting more pay, only to have the operator point out which federal assistance programs she qualifies for and offer to help her apply for federal benefits. I spent several hours bandying comments back and forth on that story.
I’m beyond shocked at how people are frothing at the mouth to disrespect the poor. If poor people can’t/don’t work, but collect benefits anyway, they are moochers. If they work full-time at a job that doesn’t pay them enough money to live, they’re too lazy to or too stupid to get a “better” job.
Here are some of the comments that have increased my blood pressure to the boiling point:
“why is this woman assuming that a job should provide for her and her entirely family? it is an entry level work position.... why aren't people aspiring for more?!”“Nancy needs an education thats her problem.”“If we start paying these guys higher wages it'll inflate everything... A quarter pounder will soon cost 12 dollars.. Tell them to go to school... These types of jobs were never meant to be supporting children and full families...”“So call it what it is, she wants the easy, no responsibilities, job of working at McDonalds while earning enough money to live the consumerist american lifestyle.”
And here’s a REAL corker:
Front-line jobs running a cash register or a fry machine at places like McDonald's and Walmart are basically unskilled labor. They are not meant to be full-time jobs that support a family. These are jobs that are best left to teens, college kids, moms who just want to get out of the house a few days a week, and retirees looking for a little extra spending money. It's sad that there are many people doing these jobs and trying to support a family. It's also sad that many of these individuals made horrible life choices at a young age - like dropping out of school, getting pregnant as a teen, etc. - and are now paying for those poor decisions for the rest of their lives (just like their parents, teachers, etc. told them they would). Don't like the wages at McD's? Don't work there.
Basically, the arguments are that (1) “unskilled” service industry jobs were never meant to pay living wages…so these workers had no business taking the jobs to begin with, and absolutely have no business complaining about the wages NOW… And (2) all they have to do is go to school, get an education, and a living wage job can magically be theirs almost instantaneously!
I already said my piece about the level of skill required to perform these “unskilled” labor jobs. The only people who call them unskilled are those who have never done and WOULD never condescend to doing them. And I strongly suspect that whole attitude is a cop-out, because the fact is, these holier-than-thou types know they would never be able to cut the mustard in the industry.
But let’s look at the “they need to get an education” argument.
Seriously, I could probably come up with ten examples of people I know personally who went to “get an education” in order to get a higher paying job. Most of these either (1) got the certificate but are no longer doing the work for which they were educated, or (2) could not GET a job in the field because it’s flooded with applicants, or (3) washed out of a “fast-track” education program, are still working in the service industry, and now owe $10,000 to $15,000 for the “education” they never finished.
And here’s a thing: Many people who actually ENJOY the food industry are going to culinary school. Do you have any idea how much culinary school COSTS? Eight years ago, I looked into doing that very thing. At that time, a three-year chef program was running over $40k. The “patisserie” certificate in which I was interested was $20k. Perhaps a four-year college degree in, say, engineering costs double or triple that, these days. Still, these are not insignificant figures. People GET these certificates in hopes of landing one of those “living wage jobs” NOT in fast food.
So what do they get for their money?
So glad you asked. This brings me to the seed of this entire post.
Once again, I was checking Craigslist for job listings the other day, and I picked another “favorite:”
Part-time Baker wanted (Vancouver)We're seeking a baker for 20+ hours a week in our growing bakery. This position will likely grow into 30-40 hours per week as we grow and after full training.
MUST have minimum of 1 years bakery experience or a degree in culinary arts. Applicant must be flexible to work day, night or wing shift. We will better explain the hours and details about our products in the interview process.
Due to an expected high volume of applicants we will only be responding to those who we would like to interview.· Compensation: $10
So, say I HAD my $30-$60k culinary arts certificate. Good deal! It qualifies me for this great part-time baking position that pays ten bucks an hour!
Shaking My F**king Head…