In April of 2011 I quit my job as a shift manager for a popular chain of coffee and bakery shops here in Ohio. This job paid 8.75 an hour, had no options for health care for even the most senior managers, no breaks and no sick days.
Why did I quit this Gem of a job? Good question.
As a manager for this restaurant chain I commonly had to call people with strep, the flu, pink eye and a series of other illnesses you would want to touch your food, and tell them they had to show up for their shift or they would be fired. They could go to the Emergency Room and obtain a note so we could not legally fire them. However most of the people I worked with did not have insurance. They did not have a few hundred dollars to give to a Hospital, in order to get this required Doctor's Note. I saw many, many people fired for this in my 2 year position. I did not have a choice, all firings were handed down from The Big Boss Man.
And I saw and went through some extremely distasteful things. I came in for 5 8-hour shifts at a temperature of 102 degrees. Snot pouring from my nose, my eyes hazy and my mind exhausted. I made people's food with these symptoms because I was the only person who had been there long enough to keep up with a morning rush. And I became good Friends with these people. I've seen them punished with being let go or having their hours cut to the point where they had no choice but to quit and find a job that didn't hold illness against them. There are not a lot of those jobs available to these people.
The Big Boss Man had his 7 managers (3 from one store he owned, and 4 from another) spending all of their gas money making multiple trips to other stores in our district to beg to borrow product because he did not want to order a proper amount for services. We attempted to organize a chart detailing miles driven and gas used in an effort to get reimbursed for these 50-100 dollar a paycheck expenses. We were systematically ignored.
I had to overdraw my bank account two paychecks in a row to even afford to drive to work, and despite working extremely hard to become a manager in the first place it seemed as though I was actually doing worse financially. The occasional 16 hour shift began to happen more often, and the chronic joint pain I've suffered from since the age of 19 began to worsen. Things had started to fall apart.
I attempted to have these physical issues addressed through a clinic for low-income people, but they did not have the resources to properly diagnose the joint pain and seizures I had been suffering. I then attempted to find a low cost government funded option for people with too little money to afford health care. At roughly 15,500 a year, I was told I made far too much money to qualify for assistance. I was between a rock and an extremely painful place. So I made a decision and quit this job after I had once again attempted to rectify the reimbursement issue with The Big Boss Man.
Does this make me a lazy, no-account slacker? I don't believe so. My fiance has a decent job (although he has to travel about 50 miles a day to get to it) and he and I made the decision together, with him strongly encouraging me to think of my health before my dedication to my job. And believe me, I had an insane level of dedication. I believe in hard work. I believe in integrity. That's how I was raised. You are either all in or all out.
But I had a choice to make- do I allow myself to be exploited for someone else's gain without any of my needs being met, or do I attempt to stand up for myself even if it means I have to quit on principle?
I believe I made the correct choice for myself. But many cannot quit their exploitative jobs because they will not survive. Financial security does not exist down here on the bottom. And I empathize with all food service workers (and any other worker) fighting against these conditions and abuses. They do exist.
So next time you go through a Drivethru, remember that the person on the other side of the window may be miserable for good reason.