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A week ago We the People exercised our political power and put Obama back the White House. Americans chose a clear path. A vote for Romney was a vote for rule by the rich, for "trickle", for oligarchy. But instead, Americans bet on the working class. Voters showed faith in the American work ethic, faith in American ingenuity. Voters showed that they believe that a hard day's work should pay off, and that this basic American value shouldn't be sacrificed just so a lucky rich few can benefit.

Angry that their immense riches didn't translate into immense power over the will of American voters, corporate executives and rich guys of all kinds have began revenge layoffs and anti-worker actions, with a condescending "you brought this on yourself" attitude. The most numerous of these have been revenge actions from chain restaurants. Papa John's, Jimmy John's, Applebee's, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and now Denny's & Hurricane Grill & Wings.

For me it's personal. My wife is a cook by trade, slogging her way from restaurant to restaurant. She's been a cook for nearly 20 years, with little to show for it. But she is an excellent cook, and more importantly she knows how to run a kitchen. She knows what to do when there's two rows of tickets and a full grill of burgers and the damn printer still won't stop spitting out more tickets. She's tough, which is something that arrogant, privileged restaurant owners and franchisees don't always like that. Women are supposed to be skinny waitresses, not strong, skilled cooks.

Only "serious" cooks need apply.
When she gets a new restaurant job, it always starts the same way. They start her off around 8 bucks an hour, to work at that low wage "prove that she's serious". Her and I both know that the "prove you're serious" wage is because she's a woman, and in nearly every kitchen she works, she's the only female. Being a cook is physical work. She stacks 50-pound boxes in the cooler, refusing offers of "let me get that" and "are you sure you can lift all that?", which are sometimes well-meaning, and sometimes condescending. She scrapes grills and scrubs fryers.

She always proves that she's a "serious" cook, to the surprise of many. She always proves these guys wrong.

She usually does get some kind of a raise, and some kind of an opportunity to move up. After a month or there is no question that she's "serious" with real experience, skill, and work ethic, and that she could work at any other restaurant if she wanted to. Good help is hard to find, so at first they do what they can to keep her.

A strange breed
But restaurant franchisees and corporate restaurant managers are a strange breed. They "buy" a franchise or manage a corporate owned restaurant with a ready made, focus-group tested, tightly controlled business plan. There is no creativity required, no restaurant expertise needed. These bosses come from the business world, not the food world. They are almost invariably authoritarian, condescending megalomaniacs. However, her immediate supervisor is usually someone who came from the kitchen, someone who appreciates her hard work. But he's not the big bossman who makes decisions about whether or not she gets a promotion or a raise.

I get tired of seeing her get kicked around by these guys. She worked at a restaurant where she found out that she wasn't being paid as much as the male cooks even though she had been there a few years. She confronted the manager, and he promised a raise. After about 6 months of not getting her promised raise, she quit. All the people she met there who she thought were her friends stopped talking to her, saying she "screwed them over", and one of them started calling and harrassing her. I wanted to kick his ass, but she made me stay out of it. That's the way she is, she is strong and hard-working, and never needs a man to "protect" her.

She worked at another chain restaurant, a local chain. Again she was a rock star in the kitchen. She worked her way up from her "prove you're serious" wage to a position where she had some management duties. Her immediate supervisors thought she was great, but the owner was an arrogant jerk who inherited the restaurant from his dad. He never got along with my wife. The front of the house manager was a skinny, Christian, unapologetically conservative woman who had five kids. The owner fired my wife suddenly  and unexplainably, and made the obedient front-of-the-house manager in charge of the kitchen instead. He couldn't stand the thought of a strong, hard working woman who wasn't afraid to get down and dirty and do a man's job.

Douchebag CEO's
That's how these corporate chains are. She actually has a job right now that treats her decent. But they have trouble finding good help because they don't pay shit. She has been moving up the ladder quickly, and has high hopes. But working at chain restaurants can be a thankless job with little reward for the endless physical labor involved.

That's why I get so pissed off at dicks like Papa John. They already pay their overworked employees peanuts. These workers never get holidays off, never get paid sick days, never get vacations, never get health insurance. It's just the norm for that business, and it already isn't right. These guys get so rich by paying their employees very little. Now these greedy corporate restaurant CEO's want to bitch because they might actually have to treat their employees like human beings?

Fuck you Papa John, and every douchebag restaurant CEO who talks about taking it out on their employees because American voted to give restaurant workers some fucking rights. They deserve healthcare because they're Americans, and they work hard.

Originally I wasn't going to post this. My wife doesn't need anyone to speak for her. She doesn't want to be protected.  She is a hard worker, tough and streetsmart. She may not have wanted me to post this rant. I've kept it somewhat vague because I don't want to get her in trouble. But as I see restaurant franchisees and CEO's stand up and say they are going to make life harder for their already overworked and underappreciated workers just to punish American voters for electing Obama, I have to say something. This is for all cooks who toil in hot, greasy kitchens and get paid much less than they are worth.

Screw you, Papa John. Screw you, John Metz. Go ahead, Applebees, stop building restaurants. It just leaves more room for mom and pop shops to fill the void. Maybe a new wave of restaurant owners will give hard workers like my wife some fucking respect.

Originally posted to Broke And Unemployed on Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 11:55 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Community Spotlight.

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