As many of you know I am actively avoiding the news as of late so many stories escape my attention but two stories, only one will I touch on today, have passed my filters thanks to others who want to talk about current events.
As we are in the midst of the holiday season, a time we should be stress-free, many are stressed beyond words.
The biggest stress that falls upon us as Christmas approaches is a financial stress. For some this is of their own making, they spend beyond their means to give gifts that attempt to express their love for another.
But there is another group of people who are financially stressed because the economy has faltered. They can’t find work and what work they have found is so low paying it’s not enough to support a family.
I know, the numbers are good. The stock market is up and unemployment is down. These two figures say nothing about the actual experiences of the average worker. Stock numbers only reflect how well the ultra rich are doing while the unemployment numbers ignore those who are under employed or have been out of work so long they no longer qualify for unemployment.
So what is my beef? It’s with McDonald’s, the fast food king. In answer to workers, who are no longer young teens living at home but head of households and college educated that can’t find other work, wanting a higher wage McDonald’s answers them by announcing they will be rolling out automated cashiers in 2017. While expected only to affect large cities, for now, the number of people who will hold their breath and hope they will have a job in a few months is as high as 1.5 million.
I get it, as technology improves automation will continue to replace human workers. It’s the wave of the future, it always was. Yet, until we create new jobs or design the new economy that those of us old enough to remember were promised – one a life of leisure and stability as the robots took over the work we can’t afford to have such a large employer eliminate jobs on this scale with only a couple months notice.
Who else remembers the lofty aspirations of this lifestyle associated with shows such as the Jetson’s cartoon?
In 1966, Time Magazine and others began to describe the life of leisure we would experience and our only problem would be how to fill the hours of leisure, which vacation to take next. Thom Hartmann in Are We Going to be the Flintstones or the Jetson’s you can read a much better worded account of what those believed would be our future than I can express.
We don’t have to sit by and take it. Let me share two examples of the power of the people I’ve experienced first hand.
Five years ago, the local grocery store where I lived installed self-check out lanes. Cashiers were on hand to help shoppers learn how to use the machines. How nice to have to train others to eliminate your job. Being a small town and the store owned by a local family word quickly spread that as soon as the customers learned how to use the new machines all but one cashier per shift would be let go.
People in the town realized this would hurt people they knew and lived next to. The decision spread by word of mouth was to boycott the self-check out lanes and preserve the cashier’s jobs. The owner of the store was told that we would take our business elsewhere if he laid off that many workers – we did have an option of a Super WalMart so it wasn’t an empty threat.
The solution? The owner agreed to leave the four self-check out machines and lay no one off. He needed to cut the hours of a couple cashiers and asked for volunteers, those who had the least to lose took the couple hour a week cut.
Another situation arose with a fast food chain in the same town. This was many years ago. A Burger King built and opened a brand new restaurant in the town. The problem was they had no handicap access. When asked the manager was quoted as saying that those in wheelchairs could just “use the drive-thru”.
That answer wasn’t good enough, not to mention dangerous for the wheelchair bound person. Word spread through town that everyone should boycott the restaurant. Surprisingly, the entire town boycotted the restaurant because they wanted all the residents to have equal access to every businesses in the town.
After being open for business less than a week, Burger King saw their sales drop to exactly zero. The second day of the boycott they announced the handicap access was an oversight in construction and it was being remedied. It was and in a few days customers returned and the business flourished.
Now Burger King isn’t the best food to eat and neither is McDonald’s but if we care about our neighbors and their families it’s time to stand up for them.
Will activism work in the current economy? I don’t know but it can’t hurt, can it?
Why is this bugging me so? I have a friend who is disabled, unable to work who now has her adult son and his wife and child living with her because he can’t afford rent on his McDonald’s wages and can’t find supplemental or better employment. What happens to this multi-generation family if he is one of the workers cut in 2017 through no fault of his own?