By Kate Gatto
Eating out is fun, especially for the person who usually has to do the cooking. It’s not so fun however for the people who work in restaurants. The restaurant industry is among some of the most labor unfriendly employers in the United States. They often pay workers minimum wage, or sub minimum wage, and have been in the middle of several battles about other labor fairness issues, such as the accurate tracking of hours.
Many companies that serve food, or fast food, have become notorious about the way they treat their workers. One list, which talks about the companies that pay American workers the least in general is published by 24/7 Wall Street. It includes several restaurants. National chains such as Burger King, Mc Donald’s, Yum! Brands (owner of the Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC) all make the list for the lowest paid workers in the United States.
Average Retail Salaries
If you have not flipped a cheeseburger since you were in high school, you may not realize just what the people at the drive through window are being paid these days. Don’t worry, you don’t have to find someone ask.
Research done by a reporter at Business Insider, with the help of professionals at salary.com, lists the average pay rates for workers in a variety of fast food locations. You will be surprised to see not only how little these workers are paid, but how variable the industry is. Here is a listing of some common fast food franchises:
Taco Bell ($7.37 an hour)
Wendy’s ($7.39 an hour)
Burger King ($7.72 an hour)
Dunkin’ Donuts ($7.82 an hour)
McDonald’s ($7.81 an hour)
Dairy Queen ($7.92 an hour)
Chick-Fil-A ($7.96 an hour)
Subway ($7.98 an hour)
Jamba Juice ($8.18 an hour)
Noodles & Company ($8.29 an hour)
Panera Bread ($8.36 an hour)
Chipotle ($8.57 an hour)
In-N-Out Burger ($10.53 an hour)
It’s not hard to see now why some of the companies on this list are the lowest paying in the country. Of course, retail food service workers are not the only ones who bring you your food when you don’t feel like cooking. Waitresses, and other people in food service whose incomes are supplemented by tips, are subject to what is known as “sub-minimum wage”.
Minimum Wage vs. Sub-Minimum Wage
You may be wondering exactly what sub-minimum wage is. It is a way to pay workers whose income may consist, either partially or primarily of tips, a lower hourly amount. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sub-minimum wage, it is little over two dollars an hour.
Yes, you read that correctly. The sub-minimum wage is $2.13 an hour. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that no one could support themselves let alone a family on that income.
Unlike the minimum wage (which is often raised every year, or least every couple of years), the sub-minimum wage has remained fairly static. In the last 20 years it has not changed a single time. If you consider that millions of people earn their income from jobs that tip, the issue of sub-minimum wage becomes a question of economic stability, as well as fairness.
The Worst Restaurants
So when it comes to working for a restaurant, which offenders are the worst? Sadly, unionization is extremely rare in the restaurant industry. In addition, workers who complain run the risk of finding themselves subject to involuntary termination.
This means that the list of restaurants that do not pay their workers a fare and living wage is really quite long. One list of the worst restaurants to work for, first compiled by a journalist at Gawkr , includes the following locations:
Buffalo Wild Wings
California Pizza Kitchen
Chuck E. Cheese
Cold Stone Creamery
Hard Rock Cafe
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
Uno Chicago Grill
As you may have noticed that doesn’t leave you with many choices. The sad fact is that these workers are treated as disposable commodities by many corporations. Your best shot at finding workers who are paid a fair rate for their labor is eating at local, or family owned establishments.
What Can I Do About This?
First and foremost, you should stop eating at these establishments. The only thing that corporations really care about, the only language they really speak, is the language of dollars. If you stop spending yours there then companies will be forced to change.
There is however, one important step that many consumers forget about. The company has to know why you are boycotting their products. If they don’t know they may assume that the loss of income is related to the general economy, a bust marketing plan, or any other number of factors.
This means the time has come to make contact. You can find the contact numbers for many corporations via sites like Jigsaw, or on the website of the individual corporations. Once you have the number, use it! Pick up the phone, get to a live person, and let them know that you won’t be eating there anymore until they start treating their workers better.
Just bear in mind that having a moral objection is no reason to yell or be rude to the other person on the phone. If you convey your passion in a more professional manner you will have a greater impact. To be honest, the person on the phone probably doesn’t have any direct impact over the situation.
It is the overall trend of callers moving up the chain of corporate management that will have an impact in the long run. Don’t be discouraged, because it takes time for your voice be heard.