Please don’t eat at the restaurant I work for

by Todd Hebert

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I work in the kitchen at a very successful chain restaurant. I spent my shift this morning coughing and hacking. I’m pretty sure I have bronchitis. I blew my nose probably a dozen times. Of course I washed my hands and put gloves on before returning to work, but stray germs are inevitable.

During a break this morning I found myself hacking so hard that I puked the contents of my stomach (coffee, english muffin with peanut butter, and phlegm) onto the ground outside. I covered up the vomit with wood chips from the beautiful landscaping that surrounds the restaurant. After my 5-minute puke-break I went back into the kitchen to prepare more food for our devoted customers.

Why the hell was I even working today, you ask? Why didn’t I call out? Why didn’t I go home early? I had to stay on the clock because the owner doesn’t give his employees sick pay. I need to make a living. Calling out sick isn’t an option. My only choice is to work and risk infecting my coworkers, and the customers; not to mention coughing all over their food.

My sickness will, no doubt, continue for a few weeks. I can’t get proper medical care because health insurance is another thing the owner doesn’t provide for his workers. So, I beg you friends, please don’t eat at the chain restaurant I work for.

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) publishes a yearly Diner’s Guide to Ethical Eating. According to the guide, several of the most popular eating establishments in America are also some of the worst places to work for.

“Unfortunately, the workers who cook, prepare, and serve our food suffer from poverty wages, a lack of basic benefits like paid sick days, and often have little or no chance to move up to better positions, the ROC writes at the website for it’s 2013 Diner’s Guide. “When the people who serve us food can’t afford to pay the rent or take a day off when they’re sick, our dining experience suffers.”

Of the more than 4,300 restaurant workers surveyed by the ROC, 90% reported not having paid sick leave. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they regularly go to work and prepare, cook, and serve food while they are sick.

The guide ranks 150 of America’s most profitable restaurants based on wages, if sick leave is provided, and advancement opportunities. Each restaurant is awarded between zero and five points. Several of the best known chains received zero points because they don’t meet any of the minimum requirements for their employees. Yes, my place of employment is on this list. Among the very worst places to work for, according to the guide are:

Boston Market
Buffalo Wild Wings
Burger King
Chuck E. Cheese
Cracker Barrel
Dunkin Donuts
Hard Rock Cafe
Outback Steakhouse
Pizza Hut
TGI Friday’s
Taco Bell
Uno Chicago Grill

How many of these places do you eat at regularly? How many of you work for one these places?

There are two types of businesses in a capitalist country. The first types are those that give more than they take from society. The second are those that take more than they give. What separates the two is greed.

A businessperson doesn’t open a restaurant franchise, like the ones features on this list, because they want to add something to their community or to make the world a little better and more pleasant. They don’t want to provide a unique dining experience to their town. They do it for one reason only: to make lots of money. I don’t have a problem with making lots of money, but a business owner needs to do it responsibly. If they care more about their Mercedes in the parking lot than the workers that made it possible, that is greed. If they don’t feel a sense of responsibility toward their workers and the community that supports them, they are greedy. Plain and simple.

“When you go out to eat,” says Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, “you shouldn’t get wage theft, racism, and sick cooks in the kitchen, along with your meal. How the food tastes at a restaurant really doesn’t matter, if the people who work there are being mistreated.”

Post image by anna gutermouth.

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