Conservatives Freak Out About Global Fast Food Strikes

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It’s Thursday evening and I decide to take a detour on the way home, giddy with news and updates about the World Wide Fast Food Strikes throughout the day. Fast food and low wage workers of the entire world took to the streets in front of the Taco Bells, McDonalds, and Burger Kings to protest both their low wages and poor treatment and to fight for a fifteen dollar an hour wage (hashtag FightForFifteen). And I wanted a celebratory drink at Mike and Roy’s Cave*, a dive in my working class neighborhood.

But Matt Grubber* beat me to it. Matt and I have been friends since we were children. He’s a little rough around the edges and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think he was parroting Fox News (he listens sometimes, he says, to right wing radio or tv), but deep inside he’s got a big heart. Tonight, he’s all grumps about the fast food strikers.

Matt: I didn’t get my quarter pounder today.

I’m sorry, Matt. I’m deeply concerned.

Yeah, you sound it. What’s with all these lazy people acting all angry cuz they ain’t spoiled rich?

First, they’re risking their livelihood just by organizing and demanding unions and representation. That’s not laziness, man. Second, they don’t wanna be rich, Matt. They just want to be able to live and be treated decently for all the hard work they do. Most of them aren’t even getting paid for the hours they’re working and…

So? They’re just putting together food somebody already made.

Preparing pre-made food for hungry, demanding mobs in tight, hot quarters is somehow easy? It’s not easy and it’s physically demanding work that often drains the energy out of employees. We know people who physically hurt from bruises and bumps…

But they’re not even trained!

They’re trained. Everybody has some sort of training at their jobs. It’s not highly specialized, but they have to know what they’re doing and they have to do it fast. And you know what happens when they’re slow on the up-take.

Yeah, they get chewed the hell out! That’s kinda mean, really…

Yeah, so they got training.

But you know what I mean. They ain’t got no special training like to be a lawyer.

What? You want more lawyers?

Oh hell no! But don’t you think they shoulda finished high school at least?

They did! Seventy-nine percent finished high school or got a GED. About half of them have some college experience as well. You and I both know people who have Bachelor’s and Master’s working these jobs.

Here’s the thing: They work hard. They perform a valuable task. Not everybody can do what they do. They go home and they’re tired and beat from working their jobs. And when you have kids? … Forgetaboutit!

They’re kids themselves!

Thirty percent of fast food workers are teens. Another thirty are between 20-24. So, yeah, the majority are fairly young, but not kids. And that means forty percent of fast food workers in America are 25 and older, with 36% being between 25-54. One fourth of fast food workers are raising a kid (source). And we know how hard and expensive it is to raise kids. Even if it’s just one child, a parent will have to earn over $15,700 a year to meet poverty lines. That’s the smallest amount you need to live in a constant state of emergency. And it doesn’t cover child care, school, medical coverage. It’s living the bare minimum, but always and always – without any emergency money. They could possibly make that amount on minimum wage if they worked forty hours a week and didn’t miss a day.

That ain’t so hard. Just go to work, y’know.

And what if their bosses only give them thirty hours a week? That’s common. Or if they do get sick. You want them coming in and sneezing on your two all beef patties, special sauce…?

So that’s what’s in there!

Secret sauce! Also, parents have to take days off if the kid is sick or if school is canceled or if child care doesn’t work out. They have to arrange for extra transportation between school, child care, work, errands. The baseline for living is to make twice the poverty line, you know. That would be, oh, 15 dollars an hour.

Why do they gotta have kids for in the first place?

Maybe they took your abstinence-only sex ed course…

Hey! Just cuz it ain’t work for me…

It doesn’t work for a lot of people, Matt. But maybe also, a mistake happened. Maybe they wanted a miracle of God. Maybe they were forced to have a child. Maybe they wanted someone to love them. Maybe things were going good and they figured it was time, but then something happened. But maybe …

Maybe it’s none of my business. I got it; I got it!

Really, what have we become, Matt, when we say that poor people can’t have children?

Yeah, that’s kinda sucky. I’ll give you that one. [He pauses] But why don’t they get better jobs?

Doing what, Matt? Did you forget that there aren’t full-time, good paying jobs out there since 2008? Or that manufacturing jobs left during the 90’s?

They could work harder to become managers!

All of them? How is that a solution?

I’m just sayin’ is all.

Look, I’m just saying we raise the base line. We get more money in the system. More tax income for the schools and to help those left behind. More buying, more purchasing. Maybe they can afford to come to your shop. Imagine that this neighborhood now has an influx of cash because people are finally getting paid. What are they gonna do with that money? They’re not Mitt Romneys – they can’t hide that money away in the Cayman Islands. They gotta spend it. And they’re gonna look for places like yours to spend it.

Oh, right. I’m liking this idea.

Did you know these fast food strikes happened in over 150 cities in America and almost 100 in the rest of the world? Hey, I heard fast food workers in Denmark are upset cuz people here get treated so badly. This movement is worldWIDE, baby! And I’m excited.

[Matt gets up to the only existing jukebox in the Northwest Side, drops in five quarters and selects Daft Punk’s “Around the World.” He half grins at me, a drunken sparkle in his eye.]

Yeah. I could tell


With EXTREME apologies to Mike Royko.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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