Real Jobs

[Content Note: Class warfare; injury; death; abuse.]

I just dropped this into comments, regarding the very common use of "low-skill work" to refer to fast food jobs, but I wanted to repost it on the main page and add some further thoughts:
I think a better term would be "low-valued skill work."

Because any job where there is a real possibility of injury (and dealing with hot cooking equipment and oil contains a real possibility of injury) actually takes some skill.

And any job that necessitates dealing with the public, and successfully navigating the abuse that unhappy people heap upon people in service positions, actually takes a lot of skill.

This isn't low-skill work. Not really. It's low-valued skill work.
Out of curiosity, I looked up what the numbers on workplace injuries for fast food workers are: "Collecting data from a sample of hospitals across the country over a two-year period, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimated that emergency rooms treated about 44,800 injuries suffered by teenage restaurant workers. Of those injuries, an estimated 28,000—a whopping 63 percent—took place in hamburger, pizza, or other fast-food establishments."
The NIOSH study also determined that nearly half of the injuries involved hot grease and that more than half of the injuries from falls were caused by wet or greasy floors. Researchers further found that the type of injury varied according to gender. Of teens working in fast-food restaurants, male workers were more likely to have burns, lacerations, and other injuries related to cooking, while female workers were more likely to suffer sprains, strains, and contusions associated with cashiering and clearing tables.

Researchers have also found that teens working in fast-food restaurants are six times more likely to be burned than teens working in any other industry. According to the Burn Foundation, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, teens working as fry cooks in fast-food restaurants are at special risk for burn injuries.

...Fast-food employees also need to be aware of the ever-present potential for robberies or random violence in their establishments. Five employees of a Wendy's in Queens, New York, for example, were shot to death in early 2000.
Although that data focuses on teenage workers, fast food workers are increasingly not teenagers: "The Center for Economic and Policy Research report finds that people aged 25-54 hold the largest share of fast-food worker jobs in the U.S. Eleven percent of workers earning $7.25 an hour or less are older than 20, as are 68 percent of workers earning between $7.26 and $10.09. This means that minimum wage workers are not simply teenagers looking for some pocket money while living at home with their parents; most fast food workers are trying to make a life for themselves and their families on the pittance that they earn."

The CEPR report also found that 36.4% of fast food workers over the age of 20 are parents.

The stereotype of the fast food worker who is a teenager with a part-time job for extra walking-around money is not accurate. Nor is the idea that these jobs are "low-skill" and "low-risk."

And, returning to my point about acknowledging harm other than physical harm, the workers at fast food restaurants are subject to all manner of abuse by customers and exploitation by corporate management; further, their jobs are constantly demeaned as "not real" jobs, thus suggesting their work itself is not "real."

Which is only one piece of the demeaning language we use around fast food labor, in order that we might denigrate the industry and uphold the narrative that it's just a bunch of throwaway work filled by throwaway workers.

We talk about how the food itself isn't "real." (It's real enough to someone who's hungry.) We talk about how it's gross, toxic, a symbol of everything wrong with the country or culture. (And we do it firmly outside the context of talking about government subsidies that make a Big Mac cheaper than a salad.) We talk about how the workers are people who can't do anything else. (Don't you dare have pride in your not-real work at your not-real job.)

These are real jobs with real risks and require real skills of the real people who fill them.

And it's not just shitlord Republican candidates who refuse to call them real jobs who are the problem. It's all of us who engage in any rhetoric that treats fast food work like garbage.

That rhetoric creates a context which abets advocates for the continued exploitation of fast food workers so the corporations which employ them can maximize profits.

Think of that: No one benefits more from fast food work being treated like garbage than fast food corporations and shareholders. That is a fucked-up industry. Their enormous wealth depends on our treating like shit the people who generate it for them.

I refuse to participate in that.

Real jobs. Real risks. Real skills. Real people.

* * *

[Although I'm talking about the fast food industry here, the same applies to essentially any other job/industry that is routinely described as "low-skill." Retail, for example. Home healthcare, as another. Please consider all of these fields on-topic for discussion.]

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