Our conditions as workers

Pizza Delivery Drivers

In 2003 more delivery drivers were murdered on the job than any other occupation in America. Almost twice as many drivers were killed delivering pizzas than were cops slain in the line of duty. Over the last ten years, delivering has consistently rated as the fifth most dangerous job in the country.

Drivers jeopardize their lives facing robberies, auto accidents and a whole host of dangers on a daily basis. How does Pizza Hut repay workers for these life-threatening risks?

By stealing nearly one dollar from every driver on each delivery they take.

Drivers, not Pizza Hut, pay for the costs associated with delivery. They are bled white by the price of gas, insurance, and costly auto repairs. Yet out of the enormous $1.60 the company charges for delivery, drivers at Pizza Hut receive only sixty-five cents.

Customers naturally believe the $1.60 fee goes to the drivers and tip far less (if at all) because of it. Taking this into account and the fact that gas prices have essentially doubled over the last four or five years, drivers are paying more to deliver and getting less in return. It amounts to a two-fold pay cut.

Crewmembers

The situation is much the same at other restaurants and is even worse for inside workers, the backbone of any fast food company. Around four or five fast food workers are murdered on-the-job every month, usually during the course of a robbery. Yet, the restaurant industry has fought not only the introduction of any guidelines on workplace violence, but any enforcement of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

Fortunetly most fast food workers do not have to deal with this kind of direct violence. Instead, however, they are forced to tolerate robbery and injustices which are subtler, but equally noteworthy.

Every last dime made in a restaurant begins and ends with the inside crew. They sweep the floors, mop the bathrooms, clean, prepare, cook and serve the food (effectively doing all of the profit-creating work). Ironically, however, they are the lowest paid employees.

Area coaches and corporate management, on the other hand, draw enormous salaries even though they do not participate in the operations that actually generate money. While they may set foot inside a restaurant once in a while, the “work” these high-paid bosses do is secondary at best.

Don’t believe me? Try operating an empty restaurant without workers and see if it generates money. Pushing pencils doesn’t make one penny for the company. Cooking and selling food does. As a matter of fact, it is the day-to-day tasks performed by the inside crew that actually pays for these bosses gigantic salaries.

Upper management could probably live on the moon and all the stores would still operate perfectly and continue to generate profit. These highly paid cronies are essentially parasites, yet it is the workers who are treated as unimportant lackeys. Fast food workers deserve respect and a living wage.

There are issues beyond monetary concerns as well. Few people stop to realize that the workplace is an area unlike any in America. It is quite literally a dictatorship. In just about every other arena of life, you have some democratic say in what goes on and the policies that are made. These rights stop in the workplace. You do what you are told, when you are told… or else. You may think you have some kind of choice in the matter, but the choice really boils down to this: Obey, or risk a very uncertain job market and on a long enough time-line, homelessness and possible starvation.

To put it another way: You need a job to live, but a job can live without you. The fear of getting fired and being deprived of a way to make ends meet is a kind of invisible gun which is pushed into the back of every worker each time they show up to their job. One smart comment, or sometimes just asserting yourself as a free and independent human being can be enough to make some authority-crazed boss pull that trigger and send you to the streets.

It seems strange when you think about it, but managers are essentially unelected officials who have a great deal of power over your life and your livelihood. The sad fact is that the majority of workers in this country spend around 40 hours a week living in a situation comparable to a totalitarian environment.

Like any dictatorship control is maintained through propaganda and the best propaganda is the kind that goes unnoticed. Ever wonder why management always refers to workers as ‘team members’? It’s actually a very subtle form of brainwashing designed to conceal the autocratic reality of the workplace. Favoritism, punishment for being too independent is the norm. Management‘s use of the ‘team’ concept is a highly sophisticated technique used to control the workforce and extract more profit.

Notice, though, how the ‘teamwork’ stops when it comes to real issues like control of shifts, pay rates, and rights on the job? The boss makes those decisions. And if corporate management views itself as just another part of the “team” why don’t they make team member salaries?

We are fighting to end management abuse by instituting a shop stewards system –a contract through which workers can elect a representative who can write-up managers who misuse their powers. It is a small, but important step towards democratizing the workplace.

A Union for a Fast Food Job?

“But wait,” some say to this, “Are you telling me you want to have a fast food job forever? If you don’t like it here go someplace else”. It is a cowardly suggestion, but one which should be addressed nonetheless.

The great myth of the fast food industry is that such jobs are temporary and held largely by kids looking to make a quick buck or two. Over the past couple decades there has been a steady exodus of manufacturing jobs overseas, including an estimated 3,000,000 positions in the last couple of years alone. Thirty-five years ago the number one employer in the country was General Motors. That meant a good union job with excellent pay and benefits. Today the number one employer in America is Wal-Mart, and number two is McDonalds.

For many of us a fast food job or something similar is all that is available. Some of the workers we have met are in their mid-forties and Pizza Hut or Dominoes is their only source of income. One worker we know has to make regular visits to the food bank. As everyone we have talked to is painfully aware, there are no better job options in the area.

With the economy quickly shifting to the service sector, many of us (some of whom formerly held union jobs) feel a stand must be taken here in the low wage service sector. We feel that Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and McDonalds, etc are capable of paying its employees a living wage and that any job should be able to provide those who work there with a means of supporting themselves and a family.

At Pizza Hut we are fighting to receive the full $1.60 delivery charge for the drivers and we want a living wage, not minimum wage, for cooks and all crewmembers. In addition we have agitated for paid vacations, sick leave, maternity leave, real healthcare benefits, a seniority system, shop stewards, and a repair fund for the drivers.