I Work For The Enemy, And I Love It

This year, 2012, has served as an eye opener for me in the world of politics, the economy, and a hoard of social problems that are affecting the majority of the world, whether they realize it or not.  For the first time in my life, I took a vested interest in the presidential election and became very interested not only in the process behind it, but the ripple effect the results have on myself and the rest of the country.  While there are quite a few international problems, and I use the term “problems” lightly, the problems facing the United States internally are the ones foremost in my mind at the moment.  While it is hard to say which issue was “most important” in regards to the election, the state of our economy has been on everyone’s mind for some time.  We’ve gone through a recession and it looks as if the potential exists for another one in the coming months if our politicians are not careful with the steps they take in the next few weeks.

While it may just be that I am now coming to notice those around me who are also unsettled by the state of things, it appears to me that more and more of the middle and lower-middle class members of our society are standing up and taking a stand against what they feel to be unjust here in the United States.  There was the Occupy movement, which I don’t know served much purpose other than to bring attention to the fact that many are unhappy with the behavior of the upper crust of our society.  In addition, there have been more and more worker strikes and walkouts this year, and again, while they may not get the results the strikers are looking for, it once again shines a light on a piece of our society that often feels stepped on and ignored by the rest.  It’s one of these walkouts that caught my attention this morning and inspired me to write, although, like the Occupy movement, it may not bring about any change.

I had heard the other day that workers at fast food restaurants in NYC were planning a strike, demanding better wages.  This morning, I read this article that detailed the situation.  I always find myself in an awkward situation when it comes to these demonstrations.  It’s no secret that I work for McDonald’s.  I have worked for McDonald’s since I was 16.  It was my first job and will likely be my only job for the rest of my life.  To avoid any potential backlash, I can’t/won’t say anything specifically related to the company, as I work for a franchisee and my boss’s policies do not necessarily directly reflect the policies of the entire McDonald’s corporation.  There, that should keep me safe, right?

I have no regrets about working for McDonald’s.  In fact, I feel I am pretty good at what I do.  I see potential for growth, whether it be owning my own franchise someday or becoming more involved in training as a consultant outside of the restaurant.  In addition, I could easily stay on as a manager, doing what I have been doing for the last 15 years.  It’s safe to say that given my past and my desire to grow in the future, I will never be unemployed and I will always have a roof over my head.  That being said, I don’t know that the same future can be predicted for the average hourly employee.  As a manager, I make more hourly than the basic crew members.  I live on my own and maintain rent payments, car payments, and other such expenses that the average middle class adult has.  I can only assume that the employees I work with have their own expenses to deal with, just as I do.  While many fast food employees are young kids working their first job, there are certainly plenty of adults working to support families.  I can’t imagine being able to pay my bills and pay the costs of having children on a minimum wage income.  While I never directly view any other employees paycheck, I can easily do the math and I know they are struggling every week to get by.  I often worry when it comes time to pay the rent that I won’t have enough.  Fortunately, I have always managed, but I wonder how others do the same.

As I said, I like working for McDonald’s and I enjoy what I do, but with more and more people standing up against low wage pay, a solution has to be made to find a way to allow these employees to live comfortably without radically changing the demographic of the business.  It is easy to say we should simply pay them more, but the unfortunate outcome of that is that an increase in wages will undoubtedly bring about an increase in costs to the customers, and we all know that won’t go over well.

Every year I look forward to a raise and of course I would be disappointed to say the least if I did not receive one, but if my boss were to say one day I was not going to receive a raise, what options do I have to fight that?  Sure, I could threaten to quit, and given my years of service, that might hold some weight, but not much I’m sure, and for those employees who work for minimum wage, threatening to quit is basically laughable.  The employees have no clout in a fight over wages, and unfortunately, these walkouts they are staging, while drawing attention, will not change much in the short term.  I have learned, there are always people willing to work.  Should one group of employees walk away or quit, others will line up for their job.  It is impossible to unionize these employees, and quite honestly, I don’t think unionization of the fast food industry is a wise idea.  In fact, I am fairly certain that would be a fool proof way to collapse the industry in on itself.  So, where do we go and what do we do?

As I said, I am in no position to walk away from my job, but thankfully I make enough to survive.  The problem we face is that there is no easy solution.  Owners won’t sacrifice income, and even if they did, it would not solve the problem.  Customers won’t pay more if they don’t feel they have to, and obviously the smart owner will offer better prices to draw the customers in their direction.  In our society, a capitalist society, there has to be wealthy and there has to be poor, there’s no way around it.  You can argue about what is fair and what is right, but in the end, in order for our economy to function, well, sometimes we have to accept how things are.  I’m not saying I agree with it, I am simply saying that I certainly don’t have the answers.  I hope you didn’t read this far thinking I had a solution waiting for you in the end.  Unfortunately, I am just as lost when it comes to answers as the next.  In my heart, I want the women I work with to be able to buy Christmas presents for their children, but I also know a change is not in store for them anytime soon.  And when the time comes, what side of the fence will I find myself on?

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~ by James on December 1, 2012.

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