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Monday, July 03, 2006

La Lucha Continua - Part 2

Well, apparently someone isn't lovin' it!

First, Fast Food Nation served McDonalds and the fast food/factory farm industry it's ass in a very un-Happy Meal box and then went on to become a best seller! Worse, a movie adapted from the book has been made and is getting ready to be released.


To make things even more painful, Eric Schlosser (who is often compared to a modern-day Upton Sinclair) has a new Fast Food Nation-type book out...for kids!

Holy crap! That's like the equivalent of walking into Ronald McDonald's house, stinking up the john, and then stealing his prom date.

Well, Ronald don't play that.

The corporation that brought you Chinese Chicken McNuggets and accompanying McChopsticks in the 1980s is gearing up for a propaganda battle the likes of which hasn't been seen since loose lips sank ships. Expect a whole lot of lies with your supersized fries when the corporate wags sic their German Shepherds on Schlosser and Co.

By the way, I worked at McDonalds for a month when I was a teenager. Let me say, it was so fucking awful that I quit a month later, went to work at a Little Caesar's Pizza and it was like I suddenly figured out what being upwardly mobile was all about.

I'm glad to see I wasn't the only young person to realize what a shit company McDonalds is to work for. Young workers in New Zealand have been waging an awesome campaign in New Zealand to unionize McDonalds and Burger King, and they've already unionized KFC, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks – upping their wages and earning deserved rights as workers.

Dude... They even won the right to get two 10-minute tea breaks! How awesome is that?

Still, McDonalds workers in this country still struggle with low pay and no benefits, despite the fact that they are working in one of the most dangerous professions (again: detailed in Fast Food Nation) in the United States. The incidence of being murdered or robbed while on the job or dining at a McDonald's restaurant continues to be a likely and well-documented occurrence, as we've seen recently in San Diego, Northglenn (a small, suburban community in Colorado), and even Bath, England.


Chinese restaurant workers hardly have it any better, but at least they're finding Jesus. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord and pass the MSG!

What Would Jesus Do?


I love San Francisco.

Actually, to put it more succinctly, I love the land, the water, the buildings, the history, and even some San Franciscans; San Franciscans like Tom Ammiano (and, yes, sometimes even Gavin), who have just proposed a healthcare plan for uninsured residents. Newsom's plan proposes to subsidize doctors' visits, surgeries, and prescription drugs to the 82,000 plus residents who currently rely on free clinics and hospital emergency rooms for their healthcare services.

Of course, this would take a terrible burden off of emergency room staff who often have no other choice but to treat problems that could've been solved or avoided if the patient had ready access to a standard physician. Whether Newsom's plan fails or succeeds, either way, we are paying for people's lack of healthcare insurance already.

You know how people in the organic movement tell you that you're paying more in the long run for that cheap, conventionally grown produce instead paying just a little bit more now for organic? That is exactly what we are doing right now with healthcare (and education).

There's a lot of number crunching involved in this issue and you can read more about it here. Also, Supervisor Tom Ammiano has introduced a proposal that could be combined with Newsom's plan that would require every business with 20 or more employees to "contribute $1.60 an hour into health care savings accounts that the city could use to, in turn, provide health care to the uninsured. Smaller businesses would pay $1.06 an hour under the ordinance."

This of course is not an extreme proposal. In fact, my office (a modest architecture firm) has 5 employees and every single one of us has health insurance, paid for by our employer. Why? Because that's the standard in the Architecture & Engineering world, and it should be the standard everywhere.

Of course, it isn't in the restaurant industry because, for some reason, they are the biggest, nastiest opponents of paying their workers a living wage and/or providing healthcare. They have consistently resisted and organized against any sort of legislation that would raise the standards of workers in this city that has more restaurants per capita than most places in the world. In essence, many restaurant workers are mere wage slaves.

And, sorry to point out the obvious, but why do you think you see so many Mexican immigrants in the kitchens of San Francisco? Anthony Bourdain claims that he's never once seen an a American-born kid, of any income level, come to his restaurant and ask for a dishwashing job. I don't know if that's true (it sounds like bullshit), but plenty of them work at In-N-Out Burger, who happen to pay the highest in the fast food industry and offer better benefits than most jobs...period.

Maybe, Mr. Bourdain, it's because those American kids aren't willing to be paid peanuts for working long hours under hot, high stress, gruelling conditions for some asshole, coke-snorting, heroin-shooting diva of a well-compensated chef (Not that I'm speaking of you, of course). When working at In-N-Out Burger is considered a step up from working at, say, Les Halles or the many restaurants owned by your friends, the problem isn't with them.

It is with you.

The fact is, Mexican migrant workers and immigrants over-populate every American industry where the pay is miniscule and the risk is high because the payoff, personally for them and, most importantly, their families back home, is high.

The other fact, overlooked by Bourdain, is that the Mexican guys (that he seemingly patronizes every interview he gives) who start off as dishwashers and then move up to line cook, almost never get beyond there. It's those American kids he derides who are at the top of the heirarchy of the restaurant industry; likely because they worked or their parents worked a living-wage job long enough to pay for their culinary academy fees.

Not trying to really focus on Bourdain and personalize this*, but if he or you were to take a look at Food and Wine magazine's Best New Chefs page, which dates back to 1988, how many Spanish surnames (that belong to people of Latin American descent) would you expect to see?

10? 5? 1?

Try Zero.

*because I actually, though hard to believe from what I've just written, like Bourdain.

It's hard to believe now, but back in the early to mid part of the last century, 100% (excluding mom and pop run) of San Franciscan restaurants were unionized (it now stands at 40). Not all business owners need to have the gun of a unionized workforce held to their heads to treat their workers fairly, but apparently many of the restauranteurs and hotel owners do.

Because the of the lack of unionized workplaces, *restauranteurs reap the rewards of others hard work while at the end of each and every night, those line cooks, waiters, and dishwashers go home to families who have no other means of healthcare other than the cold and allergy shelf at Walgreens.

Oh, and like I mentioned earlier, the emergency room.

*I'm taking it for granted that not all San Francisco restauranteurs are the embodiment of evil, as it seems I am portraying them, and actually treat their workers with respect and good wages/benefits. Gavin Newsom, one of the forces behind this healthcare plan, is a restauranteur.

Back when San Francisco voted to raise the minimum wage in 2003, the restaurant owners opposed the legislation, claiming it would drive them out of business, force them to lay off workers, and raise prices. Of course, this is their usual dog and pony show whenever workers' rights are mentioned.

Uh, excuse me waiter? But I think I have some fucking crocodile tears in my soup.

Laura Thomas, of Rose Pistola, is a prime example of a greedy, lying sack-of-shit restauranteur who claims hardship if this healthcare plan is introduced. Rose Pistola: with prime real estate on Columbus Avenue, a steady stream of tourist-dollar foot traffic, whose owner is bitching about being taxed an extra $1.60 per hour per employee when Rose Pistola and its sister restaurants take in plenty of money and are in no danger of closing due to lack of business!

The insufferable gall of these people.

Despite all of their sky-is-falling rhetoric, the minimum wage increase hasn't hurt the restaurant industry in San Francisco one bit, despite the fact that there are over 100 scofflaws who still refuse to pay their workers a living wage. And neither will this latest push to better the healthcare of uninsured restaurant and other city workers. If anything, raising the minimum wage of workers and the betterment of their conditions has never resulted in the dire consequences employers always predict, and instead of bankrupting the business owner, it has been shown that by just increasing the cost of services by 1%, it could cover all of the costs of improving the lives of their workers.

Yet restaurant owners act like THEY are the ones suffering, ignoring the fact that their low-wage, uninsured workers live in, according to a study by Salary.com, one of the toughest cities in America to survive (according a cost of living, housing, wages, etc. analysis).

Of course, you didn't have to tell me that. I make good money, yet (monthly) half of it goes to rent (and I live below market value), the other half goes to water, garbage pick up, electricity (as screwed royally by Enron), and telephone (as screwed royally by SBC, now, AT&T). What little I have left goes to food, which sorry to tell you, doesn't always come from the most eco/animal/worker friendly sources. My state and federal taxes (and Californians in general) are amongst the highest in the nation.

Thank God I at least have health insurance, which, as you saw, I extremely needed to get my life back in order.

Isn't it the least we could ask that we want for others what we have ourselves?

Maybe Ms. Thomas and these other restauranteurs against workers' rights should ask that of themselves each morning they can stand to look themselves in the mirror and not see a dirty, rotten scoundrel.



Blogger mingerspice said...

Holy crap. I didn't realize how low the percentage of unionized restaurant workers was in SF. Is the list on the Unite Here! website exhaustive?

4:19 AM  

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