Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “workers”

An Open Letter to Fast Food – Tom Rossi

To whom it may concern at McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, etc.:

I am writing in support of your armies of workers. The people entrusted with the preparation of people’s food should not be treated nor paid poorly. But that’s exactly what has been going on for decades. Ever since the first McDonald’s was erected, fast food workers have been on a downward spiral.

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I want to know that the preparers of my food have some sense of dignity. I want to know that they take some pride in their work and in making a good product. I want to know that they can afford health care and are not carrying some sickness into work because they can’t afford to take a day off.

When I was 16 years old, I worked at McDonald’s for a few months. It was a lot like I imagine a “sweatshop” to be. The other workers and I were constantly pushed to work harder and faster, and for a tiny paycheck. And contrary to the beliefs of some people, we did not really “choose” this. We all needed money – that’s the cold reality. And there are always more workers than jobs, out there. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, it’s not easy to get a job. That’s the only reason anyone would ever “choose” to work fast food – out of necessity.

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The giant corporations that control fast food always ask if we want to pay more for our hamburgers. I would (and do, at better establishments) pay a little more for a sense of security in the quality of my food. And I certainly wouldn’t mind if there had to be some cuts in massive corporate profits, toward the same purpose.

Fast food workers are human beings and Americans. They don’t deserve to be driven like oxen for starvation wages. And the excuse that a fast food job isn’t meant to be a career doesn’t hold water (nor Coca Cola) either. If a stepping-stone job pays so little and exhausts workers terribly, it becomes a trap. How can a person get ahead or get an education when they can barely pay their rent? Education costs money. Families cost money. Food costs money. Transportation costs money. And fast food jobs leave workers choosing what bills to pay each month – leading them deeper and deeper into debt. That’s no way to get ahead.

It all comes back to money. What I am asking of fast food corporations is that they prioritize human dignity and health over an extra dollar in profit. Here is my pledge: Until these corporations start to treat their employees like human beings, I will not patronize them. They will not persuade me with PR campaigns, telling me how happy are their employees, because I know the truth. I also know the truth about paying rent, and other expenses.

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Having once been a fast food worker myself, I know for a fact that these are real people – not to be treated as inferiors… as if they were just not smart enough, or good enough, to have a better job. America’s greatness will continue to slip away as long as so many of us are treated like beasts of burden. Make a stand with me. Make America great again… for everyone.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Stay Competitive – Tom Rossi

During a recent grocery-chain strike, in which the workers were not trying to gain anything, but stop the company from taking away a large part of their health benefits, we all got to hear the broken-record, trump card ubiquitous employer-speak in these situations – “We have to stay competitive.”

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“Oh, OK. Competitive. Yeah.” That’s the unspoken response. Everybody accepts the argument. But wait a minute… What argument? What does “competitive” mean, anyway? This is such a magic mantra of capitalism, that we all just accept this vague smokescreen without question.

Well, here’s the cheat-sheet on this code: “competitive,” in this usage, refers to nothing except a company’s value on the stock exchange. It has nothing, whatsoever, to do with attracting customers, nothing to do with whether or not new stores can be opened up, and nothing to do with the prices of food and other items in the store.

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This is the direct result of our wonderful corporatocracy. For a company’s stock to compete with other stocks, for it to keep rising in price and paying dividends, profits always have to be rising. And half of the profit equation is costs, including labor. That’s why corporations are always trying to cut pay and benefits, at least when they can get away with it.

This particular strike, however, took place at stores mostly located in San Mateo County, just south of San Francisco, CA. Sorry, bean-counters. In the Bay Area, people care about each other, and they care about fairness.

When the workers went on strike, the customers did something miraculous… they honored the picket line and refused to shop at the stores. This caused revenues to drop like a stone, and soon the company realized it was losing much more money than it would cost to keep their employee’s health benefits intact.

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There’s a not-so-subtle lesson here: If we stick together, we can at least hold our ground against the corporate onslaught. Instead of envying our neighbors pay or benefits, we should demand a reasonable living from our employers too. Think about it, instead of jealously berating public employees for having things like a retirement benefit, shouldn’t we all be asking why we don’t all have that?

Don’t buy the vague, bogus “competitiveness” argument. It’s a cliché meant to cow the populace and trick people out of actually thinking.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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