Gratitude for food workers

Published Sep 3, 2014 at 5:29 am (Updated Aug 29, 2014 at 10:29 am)

Many types of wage earners can celebrate Labor Day as a genuine commemoration to the benefits of working in America. Crafts workers, union machinists and educators – all are examples of success stories of the labor movement who can expect reasonable hours, pay and time away to enjoy their lives. Yet one group of workers isn’t guaranteed fair wages or a respectable work environment. They are food service workers.

There are two groups of food workers you probably encounter at least once a week. Servers make $2.83 an hour in Pennsylvania, and must earn your dollar with their service to make a decent living. Fast-food workers, on the other hand, make anywhere from $7-$10 in hourly wages and are often prohibited from accepting tips. This is not about calling for better pay for these workers, as America collectively scoffed at recent protests for higher wages. This is about treating a working class with dignity and respect. And, perhaps, if we can muster it – gratitude.

Fast food chains are no longer staffed with just teenagers making some side money. According to Pew statistics, almost 40 percent of fast food workers are 25 or older, and more than 25 percent are parents.

Regardless of age, these workers have to choke down insults after incorrect orders, and clean up after guests. Yes, it is part of their job, yet it’s not asking much to be kind to the cashier who wasn’t responsible for a messed up order. We’ve all witnessed impatient patrons dole out their life’s frustrations on a naive 16-year-old, or a grandmother who needed to take one of the only jobs she could get.

Dump wasted pop before throwing it in the trash; clean up the massive ketchup spill – in short, show gratitude.

For servers, showing gratitude is easy: tip the recommended 15-20 percent after a meal. Even if an order is undercooked or not to a customer’s liking, all too often it’s witnessed that these mistakes – clearly not the fault of the server – are considered justification for the retribution a customer leaves in the form of a paltry or absent tip. If service is poor, that’s another thing, but even then, a tip is warranted. And if the tip comes in the form of a religious pamphlet, one can be sure of two things: that server will never go to that church, and that server will question the faith the patron supposedly endorses.

If you were fortunate enough to cook out this Labor Day because you had the day off, you’re probably thankful for those things in of themselves. But if you ended up grabbing some food on the run because you were working, hopefully you were grateful about it.

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