The insulting demands of the fast food industry

Billy Cannada Staff Writer

September 3, 2013

While getting ready for the day each morning, I almost always catch a glimpse of a Wendy’s baseball cap that hangs in my closet.

That hat, still stained with grease from many days of hard work, is there to serve as a reminder.

Eight years ago—three days after my 16th birthday (the age you are legally allowed to work in my home state of West Virginia) I got a job at the local Wendy’s. They started me off at $5.50 an hour working the grill. I flipped burgers, cleaned fryers and handled the dinner-time rush for about 25 hours a week (all while attending high school).

Half of my paycheck every two weeks went to my parents for car insurance and half of my remaining half went into my gas tank. After all was said and done, I pocketed about $20 every couple of weeks.

During that time I wasn’t bitter.

I didn’t think it was unfair that I was making such little money. I was happy to have a job, happy to fill up my gas tank when needed and happy to be making some sort of contribution.

Fast food was a means to an end for me.

In fact, every grunt job I’ve worked in the past decade has been a means to an end.

I’ve loaded bags of concrete at Lowe’s, pushed buggies at K-Mart, checked people out at Wal-Mart, built scaffolding on a construction site and cleaned bathrooms at the local bank until midnight. If there’s a dirty job out there where people could honestly gripe and say “I should be making more money,” I’ve probably worked it.

I didn’t go into any of those jobs thinking I would make a career out of it. I was getting a college education in what remained of my spare time.

When I heard fast food workers were striking because of low wages, I became very interested in the story. When I heard they wanted $31,000 a year—to put it nicely—I was outraged.

Saying you want more than $15 an hour for a job I put up with so I could work my way through school is insulting. I barely made a third of that when I worked fast food, and if these workers get what they’re asking for now, (I’ll show my cards) I won’t even make what they’ll be making.

Is that what we’ve come to?

Fast food workers believe they are so entitled that they think they should be making more than someone with a four-year degree from a university.

That’s simply mind blowing.

Allow me to try and understand the argument behind this one.

“But Billy, everyone should be making more money, not just fast food workers.”

Okay, but if you raise minimum wage to $16 an hour, people like myself who have worked hard and have paid for expensive education will simply be told they have to make minimum wage.

With that logic, I will have started at Wendy’s, working grunt job after grunt job— all while earning my college degree— only to hope I can land a job at Wendy’s at the end of it all?

“But Billy, what about the Wendy’s worker with four kids who can barely make ends meet.”

If you have four kids and you’re expecting Wendy’s to meet all of your financial needs, you’re sadly mistaken. I purposefully did not have any children, so I would be able to achieve my goals of reaching a career in journalism.

I don’t have anything against fast food workers, but hearing the demands of this strike was like someone spitting in my face and telling me they deserve everything I’ve worked so hard for.

My parents used to tell me, “Go to college so you won’t have to work at McDonalds,” but I’m afraid all of that may change to “Go to college so maybe you can get a job at McDonalds.”