CHAPTER 3: Behind the Counter5c

CHAPTER 3: Behind the Counter5c

CHAPTER 3: Behind the Counter5C

The “Dark Side” Explored in this Chapter: Employees – especially the two-thirds of workers who are young and/or disadvantaged - – are routinely exploited by FF companies, who also take advantage of government programs that are meant to provide workers with new skills to instead make themselves rich. They then use some of this money to buy off politicians who might otherwise enact laws to reform labor practices in the FF industry. (A secondary point Schlosser makes in this chapter is one that suggests that the FF industry has had the effect of homogenizing American culture – Colorado now looks like SoCal.)

•No other industry in US has a workforce so dominated by adolescents. 2/3 of fast food workers under age of 20. Even managers/assistant managers in late teens. Teens sought b/c they are willing to work part-time for low pay, unskilled, and their inexperience makes them easier to control (68)

•As # of baby-boom teenagers declined, chains began to hire other marginalized workers: recent immigrants, the elderly, handicapped. (70)

•For 1/6 of US restaurant workers, English is a second language. 1/3 of this group speaks no English at all (71)

•Fast food restaurants support each other in devising ways to spend less money on training workers: making machines intuitive, easy to use, works only in one way; make written instructions easy to understand by writing them in English and Spanish – 5th grade level or using picture directions (71-72)

•Targeted Job/Work Opportunity Tax Credit: Government subsidies / tax credits for hiring and training low-income workers. Given to companies to reward them for giving job training to the poor. Irony is that fast food industry has gone to great lengths to develop equipment, technology, and systems that allows them to spend less $ and time training workers. Restaurants only had to employ a worker for 400 hours to receive the money and then could get more money as soon as the worker quit and was replaced. 1996 investigation by Department of Labor found these workers would have been hired by the companies anyway and that their new jobs were part-time, provided little training, and came with no benefits (71-72)

• Evidence that the job is an especially unpleasant one for employees is the fact that the annual turn-over rate in fast-food industry is 300-400%. Typical worker quits or is fired every 3-4 months (73)

•FF Industry pays minimum wage to higher proportion of its workers than any other industry. Backed congressional legislation that would essentially eliminate federal minimum wage by allowing states to disregard it. (73)

•Restaurant company executives’ own earnings have risen considerably in past 3 decades. 1997 average corporate executive bonus was $131,000, an increase of 20% over the previous year (73)

• Evidence that FF companies are more concerned about making money than in making life better for their employees is the fact that increasing the federal minimum wage by $1 would add about 2 cents to cost of a fast food hamburger (73)

•Few employees qualify for overtime and even fewer are paid for it; instead 90% are paid hourly wage, provided no benefits, and scheduled to work only as needed (less than 40 hours a week)

*managers work 50-70 hours a week but are not paid overtime. Instead, they receive benefits, higher wages and have a chance to move up the corporate ladder

*“stroking”is a way to get workers/managers to accept less-than-optimal working conditions. It involves positive reinforcement, deliberate praise, recognition

*managers are further rewarded for keeping labor costs down; they do this, in part, by forcing workers to wait until things get busy before officially starting their shifts; forcing them to work without pay after their shifts ended; forcing them to clean restaurants on their own time; compensating them with food, not wages; falsifing time cards of workers to get themselves bonuses (74-75)

• High turn-over rates, the part-time nature of jobs, and marginal (“disadvantaged”) social status of crew members have made it difficult for FF resaurant workers to organize themselves into a union that would be able to fight owners to end the abuse (75)

•FF executives take advantage of decentralized hiring practices, wherein franchise operators can set wage rates according to local labor markets

*FF executives travel from Illinois to restaurants that are threatening to unionize to support franchise operators, intimidate employees with high-priced attorneys – force them to take lie detector tests (fine print at bottom of application); threaten dismissal if they refused to answer; shut down restaurants completely. None of workers at 15,000 McDonald’s in North America is represented by a union (78)

•1998 – Protecting Youth at Work was a report on child labor published by National Academy of Sciences which concluded that the long hours American teenagers now spend at work pose a great risk to future educational and financial success (80)

•Teens working up to 20 hrs. a week benefit by gaining a sense of responsibility and self-esteem. Teens who work more than that are far more likely to cut class and drop out of high school. Boys are likely to develop substance abuse problems and commit petty crimes (80)

•Working so many hours at a young age an create a lifelong dislike of work. Such trends are more common among disadvantaged teens (80)

•Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits employment of kids under age of 16 for more than 3 hours on a school day, or later than 7 at night. Colorado law prohibits employment of kids under 18 for more than 8 hrs. a day and at jobs that involve hazardous machinery. Violations to these laws commonplace in Colorado Springs (82)

•Injury rate of US teen workers is twice as high as adult workers. Far more likely to be untrained, and every year, about 200,000 are injured on the job (82)

•4-5 FF workers murdered on the job every month, usually during robbery. 1998 more restaurant workers murdered on job in US than police officers (83)

•FF restaurants more attractive to armed robbers than convenience stores, gas stations, or banks: This is likely due to the fact that almost all business is conducted in cash, so there are thousands of $ on premises. (Bullet-resistant barriers of banks are impractical at restaurants.) The location of many FF restaurants near freeway off-ramps makes it easy to make a speedy get-away (84)

•2/3 of robberies at FF restaurants involve current or former employees due to high turnover, low pay, ample cash in restaurant (84)

•1990’s OSHA issued voluntary guidelines for preventing violence at restaurants (making sure parking lots well-lit, etc.) National Restaurant Association enlisted over 100 congressmen to oppose these guidelines. Many of these congressmen had received donations from NRA and National Assoc. of Convenience Stores (85)

•Joseph A. Kinney, president of National Safe Workplace Institute, suggests raising wages and making a real commitment to workers will do more to cut crime than anything as no other Am. Industry is robbed more by its own employees (86)