No, it’s not that difficult to serve a burger and fries. You don’t have to go to college for it, so it can’t require that much skill. People that can’t even put a burger or taco together without screwing it up are basically not even trying – certainly they shouldn’t get paid any more money.
Although, I guess I can see how screwing up like, one burger out of the 200 or so you made that day is a little more understandable. Or accidentally forgetting that six of the twenty burritos you just put together were supposed to be meat-free, not bean-free. And of those six, half were supposed to have no cheese. Now you have to remake everything while a crabby vegan stands outraged at the inconvenience of having to wait, and your manager proceeds to crawl up your ass about keeping orders straight during lunch rush.
Actually, now that I think about it, most fast food menus are just the same five or six ingredients endlessly recombined to give the illusion of variety. Constantly churning out the proper sequence under severe time pressure actually does sound a little bit difficult to do. Or at least easy to screw up.
Ok, so maybe it is not exactly easy work. And maybe it is a tiny bit soul-crushingly repetitive. But it’s not like it’s dangerous or anything. It’s not like you have to deal with angry, crazy, entitled people all day. It’s not like you have to do anything risky, like apprehend thieves or hold back a herd of humans desperately stampeding toward savings.
Right. So, there does appear to be an element of danger which emerges at the confluence of boiling oil, slippery floors and the pressure to move as quickly as possible. And, yes, mistakes are inevitable – for any job over a long enough time period – but really, so what? I think the main point is that none if this is very important work – as in not terribly crucial to anyone. Nobody’s life hangs in the balance. Nobody will go to war or anything if a mistake is made. No economies will crash. A burger flipper doesn’t have to deal with the stress of having a job that’s . . . you know, meaningful. As such, the wage should reflect that.
But sometimes people decide that the work you are doing is actually important.
Someone trying to squeeze the maximum profit out of the industry thinks it is very important that you do your job as efficiently as possible. You manager thinks it is very important that their specific restaurant is the cleanest, friendliest and most presentable. Their McFranchise should be the best possible representation of McFranchise culture. And they want to have the best numbers on whatever scorecard determines promotions or bonuses. It’s all important to them, and they will apply whatever pressure is necessary to let you know that it is important.
And you had better believe that burger is important to the customer. Depending on the day the customer has had, prior to stepping up to that counter, it might be the most important thing in the world to them. They might have been shopping all day with their insufferable kids, or trying to get food as quickly as possible in the fifteen minutes they have been given for a lunch break. Or they just haven’t had a triple slopstack in a while, and it’s been a rough day, so fuck it, why not.
Prepare for the righteous, indignant fury that shall descend upon you if you ruin that for them, because HONESTLY IT’S JUST A GODDAMN BURGER, HOW HARD CAN IT BE?
So there are a lot of people who depend on that burger flipper, and so a lot of people are applying pressure to make sure the job is done right. Often while still insisting that you are doing nothing worthwhile with your life.
This is the case in a lot of minimum wage areas (which are not just burger flipping jobs, fyi).
These aren’t practice jobs for kids. Perhaps once upon a time they were, but it is clear that these days you are meant to treat it like a proper, for really-real grown-up job. At a practice job, you wouldn’t be pressured to come in when you are sick. You wouldn’t be on-call. You wouldn’t be fired for being unable to come in at a moment’s notice because you need to study for a test. It would be understood by the employers that these were not “real jobs”, merely training for a real job you will hold at some later date.
But that’s not the way it is. You are not expected to be a student first and an employee second – you are expected to be dedicated to the job. You are expected to work as though you anticipate sharing in the wealth you generate, with the understanding that you are greedy to actually demand more money. You are expected to be grateful to have the job and experience anxiety at the prospect of losing it.
If a wealthy industry prioritizes pushing employees to generate more wealth, they assign a level of importance to the task. If they expect an employee to take on the dedication and stress level appropriate to that importance, then they can certainly pay a wage appropriate to that dedication.
In reality though, the people opposed to a minimum wage increase (or to having one at all) do not look at it like that. From their perspective, they shouldn’t have to pay you very much because you are easily replaceable part in a machine. It is less impactful if you wear out, because there are a lot of spares.
From their perspective, you are an abundant natural resource. As such, you should be as cheap as the market permits.
From their perspective, the point is not how difficult, how dangerous or how significant is your work.
The point is simply this: Fuck you.
Fuck you, you tedious little plebs, and all the insipid things you need, desire or deserve.
People are not paid based strictly on their mastery of some skill or the utility of goods they produce. Neither are they compensated in proportion to the expense and effort involved in acquiring a skill or the level of risk or wear involved in a task. These things are only ever rewarded indirectly. We pay for skill measured against the scarcity of similarly skilled people. We pay people based on the value they provide measured against the avalability of others who might readily provide that same value. Or the willingness of others to take on the same risk.
That seems obvious. I honestly feel a bit silly stating it.
And with an ever increasing pool of people that are competing for these jobs, those hiring for them feel ever more comfortable pushing standards higher and wages lower. It doesn’t matter that you can’t afford basic necessities. So long as the overall machine doesn’t break, it doesn’t really matter if you do.