Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gears: Fast food workers demanding $15 per hour - By Jeffrey J. Thivierge

You know what really grinds my gears…? 

Fast food workers demanding $15 an hour.

It seems as though every other month there is a group protesting or clamoring for a massive pay hike for burger flippers.

Before anybody gets angry with me for being such an insensitive meanie, I have to let you all know that I worked in fast food.  I was once a fast food success story.  I started working as a waiter, making $2.13 an hour (plus tips, which sometimes came in the form of multiple $1 Food Stamps) at a Pizza Hut in Aroostook County back in the mid-1990s.  About six months later, I became a shift manager and eventually moved to New Hampshire where I became an assistant manager and, one week before my 21st birthday, I was promoted to restaurant general manager.  I worked in excess of 80 hours per week at times.  It got to the point where I actually joined the Army so I would get more time off.

During my time in the Army, I rose quickly through the ranks as I took advantage of the educational opportunities that came with the risks of being a soldier.  I earned college credits at nine (yes, nine) different colleges before eventually amassing enough credit to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration. 

Following my medical retirement, I worked for a short period of time at Saint Joseph’s College in a professional environment that required a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.  The pay was to the tune of $15per hour.  I decided to continue my education and earned a master’s degree while teaching part-time at York County Community College, where I earned about $15 per hour.  Without benefits.  And I literally had to design the courses I taught.  Recently, I used my background and education to secure employment with a federal agency.  This position requires me to learn the ins and outs of their regulations and judiciously administer federal programs.  The starting pay for this job is $15.15 per hour.
Thankfully, there is a provision in federal employment that allows for a merit promotion in some fields if you can prove previous academic excellence.  (I got lucky and my high school grades were excluded from this.)  Since I had a high grade point average in both undergraduate and graduate school, I was hired at a higher pay grade and completely skipped the $15.15 per hour wage.

It infuriates me to think that people working in the fast food industry believe that they should enjoy the same fruits of life that I have sacrificed my mind, body and soul to earn.  During my time in the fast food industry, I worked hard to show my value to the organization, which helped me get those promotions and pay increases.  I volunteered for the hard assignments in the Army and earned promotions and raises in pay.  I’m not saying that working in the food industry isn’t hard, but there is a huge difference between volunteering to work the fry machine and volunteering for multiple tours in a combat zone.  The education required to operate a cash register pales in comparison to the education required to perform endotracheal intubation on a trauma patient.  I would like to think that the pay should pale in comparison, too.

In this day of “equality for all”, I call for disparity in pay.  If you want more money, work for it.  Stop whining about your position in life and get an education.  I recognize that not everybody can follow the college path and will end up in the workforce early after high school.  My advice to those people is the exact advice I give my 15-year-old daughter:  Set realistic goals and become the best at everything you do.  If you are chopping lettuce at a fast food joint, strive to be the best lettuce chopper ever.  If you start your own lawn mowing business, be the best at mowing lawns.  Don’t be a slacker throwing cheese at your co-worker at a burger joint and expect great things to happen.  Life doesn’t work like that.  The best things in life happen to those that work their butts off.... not to those that take a job at a fast food place and then complain that the wages paid aren’t enough to pay your rent.  Guess what...?  In the history of fast food, the pay has always been crappy and not enough to live off of.

But hey...I preach to my daughter all the time and she still doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that I might give her an allowance if she did a decent job cleaning the bathroom.

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