McDonald’s marked my very first job at age 13. It was 1986 in Montreal and back then I believed a McFish was healthy. I grew up on McDonald’s—a Happy Meal symbolized parental love.
When I got a job there, I discovered what lies beneath the proverbial wrapper. They run a tight ship and don’t like those who veer off the path. They want discipline and devotees. They want you for the long haul. In fact, they boast on their website that 50 % of their managers started out as crew. The ethos is flavored with a touch of mild cult.
McDonald’s introduced me to lake-side company BBQs and pep rallies to upsell. McDonald’s taught me discipline. Employees had to clock in on the minute. If our tills were short, our files were written in. Three strikes and you were fired. My uniform, which permanently smelled of fried stale oil, had to always be ironed. You were always expected to mop the floors.
I quit at 16 when I realized that McDonald’s was priming me to be a manager and to stay with them for decades to come.
I am glad I got away. And I think Leobardo Meza should be too. The McDonald’s worker from San Diego was fired last month because he offered food to a homeless person, labor organizers are saying.
But dig a little deeper and it seems he got fired for rocking the boat and calling for a doubling of the minimum wage to $15. Currently most fast food workers earn incomes closer to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which they say is not sufficient, given that the median age of fast food workers is now 28.
According to Fox News, protesters, who have taken to the streets, won’t stop until Meza is reinstated. But maybe the universe has a better plan for Meza. Maybe he’ll realize that aside from substandard wages, the food is frozen and deep fried, processed and filled with genetically modified foods, and doused with chemicals. Maybe he’ll also realize that fast food is pedaled to the poor and contributes to obesity.
Meza consider yourself lucky you escaped. I do.
Maryam Henein is an investigative journalist, professional researcher, and producer of the award-winning documentary Vanishing of the Bees.