The Eagle Weeps: Please Join Me On My High Horse

Last week, thousands and thousands of American fast food employees went on strike because they feel they deserved higher wages. As it turns out, fast food jobs aren’t nearly as glamourous or high-paying as we have all imagined. After a little bit of research, I found that the average employee makes about $14,000 a year with no benefits or vacation days. For those of you who aren’t accountants, that isn’t even enough to buy a single helicopter. While many people are backing the strike, I have seen a staggeringly large number speaking out against it. The general consensus seems to be that they feel they don’t get enough money, so someone else probably shouldn’t either. This is the same sort of logic a selfish child uses when they don’t get their way. If they can’t have that ice cream, toy, or gold chain that they’ve been wanting, they aren’t going to be okay with any other children getting one.

“Only liberals, democrats, socialists, or some fools working in fast food places believe that the reason people open a business is to hire and pay people. Sort of like Cuba. The rest of the world understands working for a living and job skills.” -Mike Clark

While Mike makes a good point on how businesses are not about ensuring the finical wellbeing of their employees, he makes an even better point on how someone can exist as a complete monster without any empathy for his fellow human beings. Mike’s comment, and those like it, received almost entirely positive feedback on the Yahoo and Fox news websites. Other commenters went on to call the strikers fat and lazy, again to bewilderingly positive feedback. While the article he is referencing attempted to illustrate the hardships of being a minimum-wage employee in New York City, people across the nation responded with anger, confused economics, bizarre patriotism, vague racism, and absolutely no solutions.

“The great thing about this country is everyone has the same exact minimal opportunities. Sure, some people are born with more opportunities than others, but we all have the same minimal ones. We can all graduate high school and go to college. We all might not be able to afford it, but you have to roll the dice and take out loans. If you choose to live conservatively you better expect to have to grind everyday and barely make it by.” -Justin Samland

Justin’s strange views on “the great thing about this country” were followed by a quote from Ozzy Osborne to really bring the concept home. For some the solution to all of this country’s problems has always been to make sure their American flag is flown higher and truer than all the rest. It’s as if they are absolutely convinced that their national pride will somehow see them through. Turn your vehicle into a monster truck, paint an eagle wearing a spacesuit on it, and hope that will be enough to ensure a prosperous future for the Unites States. While I am not even going to consider arguing against the many merits of owning a radical monster truck (or having a totally bitching mural painted on it), showing national pride doesn’t actually change anything. A lot of people are proud of their children too but that won’t keep them from growing up and doing despicable things someday. As much as I love this country, I know I have to work to ensure it’s not going to slip into serving a small number of clever individuals with a financial advantage. Sadly, I may be alone in that.

“People should be grateful that places like McDonald’s even have jobs to offer. You should be LOYAL to your employer and unionizing isn’t a right. Unions should be criminalized! They have ruined teachers AND our automotive industry.” -Tina Yarborough



From Snog’s “Third Mall From The Sun”

McDonald’s revenue is astronomically high and their net income is in the billions. Earlier this year, they nearly tripled the pay of a recently hired CEO by giving him a package worth roughly thirteen million dollars. So why shouldn’t the base level employees have the right to organize and request more money too? After all, the company has been staggeringly profitable for the better part of a century and they owe much of that to their historically underpaid workforce.

“I’m sorry you’re [sic] paid what your worth but a fast food worker isn’t worth anything, fast food is a want not a need. Taco Bell etc is a starter job or part time job for college students period.” -Paul Stewart

This would be a great argument if it were even remotely true or coherent. Even if it were a starter job, it’s a starter job at one of most profitable companies currently in existence. But a lot of people actually do work in the food services industry as a career or after they’ve lost a much better paying job. In fact, there are fast food employees in other parts of the world already making the wages the striking employes are requesting. Similarly, not everyone goes to college and those that went to college are not guaranteed to be more intelligent. I should know because I went to college and immediately noticed it was full of idiots. Also, saying that non-essential jobs should be paid non-essential wages would leave everyone but farmers and carpenters making next to nothing. Is an advertising executive essential? Do we really need politicians? What about the entertainment or sports industries? Those people can make salaries in the millions. I love a good slam-dunk or action scene just as much as the next fellow, but are they really worth the investment?

The more I read about this, the more it just feels like everyone hates the idea of someone doing better than they are, which makes human nature seem pretty lame. They’re terrified that they won’t be at the top of their little heap anymore. But all that animosity and fear is blinding a lot of people from the real issue. We are living in a time where adults take these jobs in order to get by and simply aren’t earning enough money to survive. Why shouldn’t exploited workers have the right to unionize and negotiate better pay? At what point did we decide to throw in the towel on a better America and just assume that big business knows best or that “cutthroat and shitty” were going to be the new status quo? Our government has bailed out a banking system that severely damaged our economy and credibility by engaging in greedy and willfully illegal practices. When people organized and protested against that reality, it was only a matter of months before it lost all focus and accountability. They were being effective, they were also barred from organizing and arrested for disturbing the peace. Eventually it all fell apart. There were no new banking regulations, no criminal charges brought up against corrupt business leaders, there wasn’t even much of a continued dialogue about what to do next. Just thinking about it makes me sadder than Eddie Murphy’s rap career.

The bottom line is that people do not go on strike, protest, or make a lot of noise unless something is actually wrong. Not making enough money to feed your family is a problem and being insensitive and telling them to shut up because you’re having a rough go of it too isn’t really a solution. I find it tedious to see so much unverified and blatantly phony information posted online and reported on television for us to be scared of. Our obsession with entertainment has reached debilitating levels. Instead of educating ourselves and discussing world issues, we’re watching marathons of fake big breasted women argue about nothing in particular. We willingly give up our rights as citizens because we’ve been convinced of this perpetual danger coming at us from every conceivable angle. If you want my take (and if you’ve read this far you probably do), I believe we should stop accepting all of this nonsense. America is not great because it just is, nothing works like that. We owe it to our country to be smarter, well informed, and more vocal because it deserves better. This fast food wage issue isn’t so much about wanting more money as it is about an entire of group of people being devalued. It is well past time for us to stop being so afraid, angry, and complacent. The people of today should all start striving for more before we are all the mothers and fathers of the next horrendous generation.

USA2 tv*Comic based on myth widely circulated as actual news for the last decade.

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57 Responses to The Eagle Weeps: Please Join Me On My High Horse

  1. Pingback: Hump Day Haiku: Supersize Me! | tippingteapots

  2. I’m always embarrassed around these fast food workers. I have friends and family who leave their tables as messy as possible and when I ask them why they don’t take care of their own mess they say, “Well they’re (FF workers) paid to do that.” I don’t’ know about there but here in the Philippines, fast food workers don’t even get a tip. And people expect them to act like they’re their personal maids! Almost everyone I know is like that. That attitude…it’s very problematic.

    • They don’t get tips here either and certainly are not paid to do that. While someone will come out and clean up, it isn’t their job to bus your trays. That’s why they have those big trash bins with the “Thank You” doors you can dump all of your garbage into. If it were their job, it wouldn’t say anything or be out-front and they’d probably be allowed tips.

      • some guy in the back row says:

        That’s funny, I’ve seen many a manager instruct an employee to clean the front of house, or bathroom, or what-have-you. I’m pretty sure that makes it their job.

      • Technically, yes, they’ll have to clean it up if you’re a big enough prick to leave it. But I wouldn’t leave garbage on the ground of a connivence store or deli when there are obviously garbage bins for me to use. Even if you took a dump in the middle of a BestBuy someone will have to clean it up, but that doesn’t mean it’s in their job description.

  3. amylf8 says:

    Brilliant…the part about being paid what you’re worth really got me. Sports players and celebrities paid millions while some people can’t afford to feed their families, that is not the way the world should be!

    • While I feel it is a little strange that someone on youtube making loud obnoxious noises can get paid thousands of dollars a day from advertisers if enough people watch their videos, I cannot say it’s wrong. The same goes for athletes, actors, or CEOs. But it feels wrong that some people can have so much extra while other people don’t even seem to have enough. Those people should get enough.

      • Matthew Galpin says:

        Why should they get a cut for doing nothing? Because wepity them and feel sorry for them? Go ahead and toss your change at the pitiful pan-handler outside the 7/11 begging for crack money. I’ll keep my money, get in my car and drive away right in front of him. That doesn’t make me a bad person. That makes them lazy.

    • Matthew Galpin says:

      Sports players and celebrities trained to get where they are. (Most of them). They have a special talent, in conjunction with years of discipline and training for their sport. For this, they are rewarded. Not to mention the millions in revenue generated from advertisements, merchandise and ticket sales. Who should this money go to? The hard-working, dedicated Football player who has significantly cut his life-span shorter for his job (yes, it’s still a job), or the lazy, whiny fast food employee?

      • writingmom2013 says:

        You fail to address the almost-made-it athletes who significantly cut their life spans short for the slim prospect of a professional career, but didn’t quite make the cut, couldn’t find a job with their degree in playground design, and ended up as fast food workers who can’t afford to take care of their failing bodies. Not being born with natural athletic talent,a gorgeous face, or the desire to take your clothes off in front of a camera does not mean you are lazy or whiny.

  4. gingerjudgesyou says:

    Brilliant post Matt, couldn’t have said itbetter myself (really, very nicely written!). Doesn’t society just make you sick?

    We should start a group of intellectuals (no egomanicas allowed), like Einstein and Freud used to do back in the day, no T.V.s, no boobs, just thoughts!

  5. The solution to our society’s ills will not be solved by intellectuals. The majority of Americans are non-intellectual (not unintelligent) or anti-intellectual (possibly unintelligent). Only when the concept of just pay passes into *common* acceptance among the masses will things have any hope of changing.

  6. Thanks for bringing this up in your blog, Matt. It just blows my mind how much CEO’s and athletes make. I can’t even fathom why banks were allowed to do the illegal stuff and not be held accountable. Meanwhile, nothing gets better for the poor and people do not have the intelligence to realize that low wages, no health care (God forbid they should need child care while they work) affects all of us. I think the U.S. has lost stature in the world because of our chronic and damaging poverty levels, high infant mortality and spotty educational system. Greed disgusts me.

    • I think banks need to be made accountable and so does everything else. I don’t believe we have any excuses for our issues with education and higher than normal poverty levels. The situation needs to be improved and the people need to demand it instead of acting like everything is already as good as it gets.

      • I think the American people have been pushed to the edge for too long and we should push back. I don’t buy that this is a capitalistic society and anything goes. There are disenfranchised people who do not have the resources for this kind of social injustice.

  7. Having worked a brief stint in fast food after college, I can verify that many customers seem to lose IQ points when they walk through the doors of a restaurant. I can also verify that the work I did then was some of the most tiring and strenuous in my life. Kudos to the workers for striking, and good luck in their quest! Great post, Matt!

  8. Soul Walker says:

    Human nature is lame.

  9. Christopher says:

    What I can never figure out is how anyone is surprised when people are upset that they don’t make enough to feed their families. Lots of people work in lots of different jobs for different reasons. Why they’re there shouldn’t matter. What matters is that they’re treated with respect and paid enough to live on. That’s it.

    • Agreed. Everything about the circumstance should be irrelevant. All that matters is people need to be able to make a living wage and receive respect. Acting like these people are somehow beneath deserving that is beyond unsettling.

  10. What I found interesting about that article in The Atlantic is that they fail to mention the cost of living in Australia. Sydney is the 12th most expensive city to live in the world, according to the Telegraph

    So my question remains: is McDonalds treating their employees so well in Australia?

  11. I suppose there is a little math to do here to find out. If the average wage for everyone in Australia is higher to compensate for the higher cost of living, then probably not. Otherwise, Aussie fast food employees might have it a little better down under.

    That said, I think there is a growing issue in a lot of countries with roots to Great Britain of the cost of living skyrocketing without the incomes to match it.

  12. Fabulous post. I’m not American but I’m saddened by this ‘every man for himself’ attitude which seems to pervade there. What happened to looking out for each other?

    • It’s just not cool anymore.

      • Maybe we can change it. Otherwise I’m going to try and build a town where everyone is nice to each other and I am the mayor. I also have friends that keep talking about starting a commune but I always worry about cults.

      • I think being nice is a good start. I was in America recently for the first time and everyone was so nice, unbelievably nice and helpful. So much more than Europeans are. So i don’t get it. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong? The cult of individualism out of control? Community is where it’s at.

      • Searchingtosee, “individualism” is not the problem, since it is hardly opposed to (voluntary) communities or community values.

        As for communes, they face both serious incentive and knowledge problems (economic calculation), which increase precipitously with scale. Cult-like behavior and mentalities are one of the few, partial solutions — a cure worse than the disease.

        Of course, do feel welcome to ignore my comments if any of the above was sarcasm.

  13. emisformaker says:

    The minimum wage in Ontario (in Canada, where I live) was raised from $8.65 to $9.50 in 2009, then to $10.25 back in 2010, and we did not suffer total economic collapse. We did end up with a disproportionate number of employers suddenly thinking it was okay to reduce their starting wages to the minimum. At least our ‘working poor’ are not further crippled by medical costs. I can only hope cooler heads will prevail – on both sides of the border – so that we can all meet our basic needs, wherever we work.

    • Canada has historically kept it’s banking system pretty well in check too. Honestly, its seems like a great place to be a human being.

      • emisformaker says:

        Bits of it are pretty swell. As for banks, they’re pretty strictly controlled at a federal level. Most of them are nation-wide entities; everything else is a credit union.

    • CJ Vali says:

      Unfortunately, politicians in these parts don’t look at evidence from other countries. Just like the gun control thing, which has worked just fine to reduce violent crime and eliminate mass shootings in Australia, which at one time was a gun-happy country just like the US. Ask a right-wing politician about that and their only comment is “it just wouldn’t work here.”

      • emisformaker says:

        I hear them say that about health care, too, and I am mystified. When I was a kid, I never understood the game Operation, since paying for medical care was a foreign concept. The fella who helped get Canada on board with the whole health care plan thing was even voted the best Canadian of all time. It seems alien now, but there was a time when many people in Canada thought similarly to contemporary Americans with regard to universal health care.

  14. Why are you bewildered? And what do you mean vague racism? Most fast food employees are minorities. Certainly the public face of the strikers are. Racists flock to Fox News. It’s like a math equation.

  15. Wait wait wait wait wait. These people aren’t earning even the cost of one helicopter? That’s redonk.

    In all seriousness, the mindset of people like our Mike and Justin staggers me. Lazy? Obviously they have no idea how hard these people at fast-food employees actually work. A LOT harder than most of the paper pushers out there. And why do so many people assume that by supporting higher wages for some, it means withholding from others? There should and could be enough to go around. Meh.

  16. This seems, to me, entirely wrongheaded. Perhaps we should have a serious discussion on the results of proposed reforms, norms, legislation, etc., and not merely on their intentions…

    Where shall we start? Capital-labour substitution? Labour skill substitution (efficiency wages)? Wage-benefit substitution, understood broadly? Increased prices (decreased demand for the company’s products and services, a lower standard of living for consumers, decreased demand for other products and services by consumers)? Decreased profits (decreased investment, lower standards of living for owners, decreased demand for other products and services by owners)? All of these realistic costs must be addressed, in addition to the benefits. Perhaps it is best to start simply, with recognition that demand curves slope downward. That leads to another question: What is the slope of the demand curve like, in this instance?

    What about alternative means of assisting the relevant individuals? Wage subsidies? A *guaranteed* minimum income? Lower marginal tax rates (e.g., the expansion of tax credits)? Superior educational opportunities?

    It would all be different if we were discussing a firm or group of firms with monopsony power. However, that is simply not the case.

    • My primary goal was to encourage people to feel that this is a cause worth investigating further and putting some energy into. If you want to elaborate on any of the subjects you’ve listed, I would be happy to read it.

      But I think you could also ague that there is a potential power similar to a monopsony here. The middle-class eats fast food more frequently than any other group because they can afford to, but lower income families also tend to eat fast food when they dine out simply because it costs less. If that consumer base ever bothered to take into account how the individual employers treated their workforce and adjusted their habits, there is no doubt it would change the market.

      • I appreciate the response.

        Concerning the subjects listed, I see no need to elaborate, so long as there is general agreement on the validity of the concepts and the empirical problems they present for aforementioned reforms, norms, legislation, etc. It is all simple, textbook economics. A great deal of harm can be caused by price floors, and the minimum wage is a price floor. Such is hardly an economically contentious claim.

        As regards the latter issue, yours isn’t the definition of “monopsony,” or even the relevant buyer:

        A monopsony is a single buyer.
        There are many “consumers” of low-skilled labour.
        Therefore, there is no monopsony on low-skilled labour.

  17. Matthew Galpin says:

    First of all, it is obvious that aside from blogging, you are a proud fast food employee. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but to argue that employees wage should be increased just because the company is worth billions, is ridiculous. Mcdonalds is successful because people like greasy food. It doesn’t take any skill to cook it. You don’t need to be a chef, go to school or even really be qualified. Paul Stewart is right. Fast food is a want, not a need. This is why doctors will always make more than Mcdonalds’ employees. If these workers want to settle for Mcdicks and not make something of their lives, that’s their prerogative, but don’t bitch about it when you or your significant other get pregnant and you can’t afford baby wipes.

    • I haven’t worked in the food industry for roughly a decade, but I remember it being real work. I also recall on the job training, an uncomfortable work environment, and the occasional long night.

      But let’s get hypothetical. Let us suppose it was always easy work, a comfortable environment, and every person that ever worked there was unintelligent or completely unmotivated. Should they still not even have the option to request more when they feel like they’re getting a bad deal?

      • Does the contention regard the option to request, or receiving said request? As I mention above, there would be serious negative consequences to the latter…

      • No, I don’t believe it obligatory they receive their demands. I was just hurt that people acted like they didn’t even deserve better or thought they shouldn’t have the right to organize.

        Things are complicated and receiving all of their demands may pose serious logistical issues, but everyone should have the right to say “I want better” without everyone calling them selfish idiots.

  18. mlrock2012 says:

    If independent contractors can be paid twice as much as full-time fast food employees, especially when the heads of these major chains can afford to pay them just a little bit more, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why the strikers have the moral high ground.

  19. mlrock2012 says:

    If independent contractors can be paid twice as much as full-time fast food employees, especially when the heads of these major chains can afford to pay them just a little bit more, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why the strikers have the moral high ground.

  20. CJ Vali says:

    I wish people would look at both sides of an issue before spewing hate and garbage all over the internet. It’s no surprise that a lot of these comments come from conservative websites. When people get “news” from a biased source, it just backs up their preconceptions and forces their opinion more and more to the dark side. Of course it’s the same with liberal sites too, but at least for the most part they’re not pushing hate. I worked fast food for a few years before I joined the military, as a “starter job,” but I still think people should be paid fairly for busting their asses to make billions of dollars for a few guys up at the top.

    • That’s true. But the majority of the people that were against the striking employees commented on articles that reported fairly objectively. I scouted around and did find websites with a more balanced viewpoint from the readership, but a great many seemed almost entirely oppose and offended by it.

    • Who determines what is “fair” compensation, particularly when there are serious economic tradeoffs to increasing the relevant compensation? (I provide an incomplete list of such tradeoffs above.)

  21. MissSteele says:

    This is a great post. I see both sides of the issue (without the hateful and biased undertones, of course). I understand that many people feel it is unfair to raise the wages of fast food workers simply because it is “unskilled” labor. Many people also feel if these people wanted to earn more in life, they should have gone to college or acquired a larger set of skills that would have allowed them to become employable in another industry. I understand these sentiments. However, I do not understand some of the arguments listed in your post made by those opposed of the wage increases, such as “fast food is a want, not a need.” Like you pointed out in your post, that argument is irrelevant because in this day and age, many of our professions are not a “need” aside from farmers and carpenters (like you said). But, let’s pretend that this argument holds water for a moment. Fast food is a want, not a need, so we should ensure the workers get paid as little as possible. Why isn’t this the case for all “unnecessary” jobs, then? And while the CEO of McDonalds certainly went to college and has an impressive set of skills, his job is also rendered unnecessary by this logic since he works for an “unnecessary” company, does it not? Of course, people will argue he deserves his bloated salary because he worked his way to the top, and his lavish lifestyle is his reward. I understand this as well, but still, the “want, not a need” argument is irrelevant still, and the fact that he worked his way to the top doesn’t change the fact he works for an unnecessary company. Obviously, the “want, not a need” argument is ludicrous and not a justification for keeping wages low in the fast food industry. I can understand some of the other arguments, but certainly not this one. It just bothers me that many of the people opposed to the wage increase criticize fast food workers for simply working in the fast food industry. I speculate some of these critics are also the same people who complain about people who do not work and live off government assistance. Although you may not approve of their job, they are working for a living. I have been in the company of people who make comments about fast food workers and I say, “At least they have a job.” And, that’s the truth. Perhaps they aren’t living their lives to the fullest potential (but who among us is?), and perhaps they should have applied themselves more. But, they are working and doing what they can to support themselves and their families. A vast majority of fast food workers are single mothers, not college students. I agree people shouldn’t feel entitled to more money just because they want more money, so I can see this side of the argument. I suppose this is why these workers are being referred to as “whiny.” I can also see what people mean when they say, “What did these people expect? They work at McDonald’s!” Well, to be treated like a human is something we all expect, I believe. Maybe they don’t deserve more money in the opinions of many, but they do not deserve to be treated less human. The whole “be loyal to your employer” argument is, quite frankly, bullshit in this circumstance. Maybe it used to be different back in the day, but in today’s world when factories close up and move to Mexico so they can minimize their labor costs and maximize their profits, that isn’t exactly a valid point. I have known people personally who have been working at the same company for years as a loyal employee and have been terminated due to budget cuts. I have seen companies lay off several of their employees while increasing the salaries of their “higher ups.” In order to have loyal employees, a company must first be loyal to them. Look at companies like Costco, who treat their employees with respect and fairness. The CEO makes a great living, but he also ensures his employees do as well. They are consistently rated one of the best places to work and they have a very low turn-over rate. Some of you are right, however. It is not a business owner’s responsibility to ensure his or her employees make a decent living. This is true for many business owners, but some of them choose to ensure the well-being of their employees. Those are the kinds of employers who deserve a pledge of loyalty. Maybe the business owners don’t have to care about their employees, but they cannot expect their employees to care about them in return. If a company makes an employee feel replaceable and useless, than the employee will, in turn, act replaceable and useless since that is how he is expected to act. As the old saying goes, “You have to give respect to get respect.” Jesus, that was a novel.

    • A novel worth the time it took to read it. That honestly has to be one of the most thoughtful comments I’ve ever received. Thank you for sharing in an intelligent and open way.

      You just might be the sort of person that the world could benefit from having more of.

  22. kipikauhale says:

    Reblogged this on Kipi Kauhale and commented:
    This is exceptionally written, and I don’t think I could have said it better myself!

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