Rabbi Sol Solomon’s Rabbinical Reflection #76 (9/8/13) – FAST FOOD ON STRIKE

Aired Sept. 7, 2013 on Dave’s Gone By. Youtube clip: http://youtu.be/kI3UH0aafJI

Shalom Dammit! This is Rabbi Sol Solomon with a Rabbinical Reflection for the week of September 8th, 2013.

“Do you want fries with that? No problem, give me 15 dollars.”

That is the call of the disenfranchised franchise worker. The people employed at Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Shloimy’s, Moishy’s – all the fast-food restaurants. They are weary of working for $7.40 per hour, which, if you can believe it, is 15 cents above the Federal minimum wage. In other words, someone laboring at a fast-food joint, full time, all week long, makes $15,000 a year, before taxes, no benefits, no 401K, but presumably all the unserved McNuggets they can eat. And so, around the country, the flippers and the grillers and the moppers and the servers are now strikers.

Who works harder than chain-food employees? They sweep the floors, clean the fryers, shpritz the special sauce, and deal with irate customers who throw tantrums when you forget the pickles. Room for advancement, to move up the grease-mottled ladder of success? Sure, for an extra dollar an hour, you get to manage all the other hostile, hopeless kids stuck in the same nowhere job. Not only do you have the honor of hearing customers bitch about everything, your fellow employees hate you for being management. All this for a salary that buys you two caramel macchiatos at Starbucks, where at least they give their workers health benefits.

I don’t care if the boss flumps a girl in a chair, hands her a magazine and says, “Just take a message if the phone rings.” Even that is taking an hour of time out of her life and deserves more than seven measly bucks an hour. Or eight. Or – oh my goodness – New York State voted to bring it up to nine – by the end of 2015! Thank you politicians! Should we bend over and bite the pillow or just sink to our knees in supplication?

As someone who lives and works on Long Island, where property taxes on a small house are 10 grand a year, the very idea that humans are still paid less than $10 an hour to do ANYTHING absolutely staggers me. That some politicians and businessmen fight against increases in the basic minimum wage staggers me double! “Oh,” they say, “if I raise the minimum wage, I won’t be able to hire as many people.” You know who faced that same problem? Pharoah! And his solution worked for a few decades until his employees rose up and marched out. And they knew about fast food, too. They hadda leave so quick, they ditched the sesame-seed buns and made matzoh instead. If you can’t afford to pay people something that keeps them in shoes, you should probably give them the shop and go work in Burger King, cause at least it’s steady.

Some folks defend low wages because these are quote-unquote “entry-level” jobs. It’s just high school students earning mall money or old people who are bored sitting at home, so they go to KFC where the action is. Leaving aside the fact that since the recession, thousands of workers have swallowed their pride to take any job, including stuffing a substance that looks vaguely like meat into Taco Bell tortillas. Leaving aside that some people take a minimum-wage second job only because they can’t pay their bills from their insufficient first job. Let’s even say for argument’s sake that your typical fast-food drudge is 15 years old, living rent-free with his parents, and not financially responsible for anything but his deodorant and iTunes downloads. Suppose this fine young man wants to take his girlfriend to the movies on a Saturday night. That’s gas in the car, parking, two movie tickets, two giant sodas, one big popcorn (and a penknife to make a schmeckel-sized hole in the bottom of it), a condom and/or a packet of handiwipes. He is looking at sixty bucks just to feel a girl’s boobs, and she may not even have boobs yet.

It is my considered opinion that any business owner netting upwards of, say, $60,000 a year who doesn’t believe that his workers are worth more than minimum wage should be shot in the face. Just as a wakeup call.

Most fast-food restaurants are publicly traded companies, so we know how much the CEO takes home, the VPs, the Vice-VPs, the shareholders, and the fry cooks and janitors. In 2010, out of $24 billion in revenue, McDonald’s netted $4.9 billion in profit. Because of this, the CEO took home almost $9 million in salary. Sorry for throwing all these numbers at you, but catch this one: that salary is almost 600 times more than that of a full-time slave at minimum wage.

Now that the economy has improved from quicksand to mud, the rank-and-file worker wakes up to remember he has needs, he has dignity, he has rights. He knows he has to work for a living, but that’s the key word: a living. Living means paying the rent, feeding the kids, getting your teeth cleaned and your blood pressure checked, going to sleep without worrying how you’ll pay for school supplies, or heat, and maybe even taking a week and staying at a Howard Johnson’s in Pensacola, Florida. If that means Horace Vanderbastard the III can’t customize his mistress’ yacht, so be it.

Good luck, fast food fighters. March on Mickey D’s. Boycott Burger King. Choke the Kentucky Fried Chicken. No, wait, that came out wrong, but you know what I mean. This isn’t about socialism. It’s not about destroying the free-market economy; that’s what cable companies are for. No, this is about fairness, about reasonable compromise, about people feeling pride in what they do and value in what they get. Yes, I’ll certainly take fries with that.

This has been a Rabbinical Reflection from the woefully underpaid Rabbi Sol Solomon, Temple Sons of Bitches in Great Neck, New York.

(c) 2013 TotalTheater. All rights reserved.

A protester holds up a sign at a demonstration outside McDonald's in Times Square in New York

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