Like many on the crust of this great celestial meatball, I like to indulge in fast food now and again. I tend to avoid it at all costs if I can, but sometimes there are those moments when your brain is just hankering for the soft, warm meat of a chicken burger, with slim, salty fries and an ice-cold soft drink to wash it down. Ahhh, yep, nobody does it like brightly-lit-fast-food-brand-x.
However, fast food restaurants themselves have always given off a sense of hidden disquiet to me. Maintained by poorly trained youngsters will little love for their jobs, thanks to the manner and lack of respect they’re treated with by their employers. Reading Fast Food Nation opened my eyes to some startling accounts by former fast food restaurant workers. But it also added new context for views and theories I’ve already encountered about equality. More than any other industry, the fast food industry operates with a pyramid system at exists right at the base level.
Recently, I stopped off at a service station to settle the rumbling in my stomach with a filling meal from KFC. The procedure is well drilled by now, an accepted part of modern life: wait in line, request your order, pay, receive your order, then escape the impatience looks from the queue behind you. Unless, of course, there’s a problem with your order, in which case you have to return to the counter and communicate – often in an apologetic or enraged tone – with the ‘people’ behind the counter.
Only, thanks to the fast food giants, they’re not so much people anymore as automatons with hands, mouths and polyester t-shirts that bear a name tag and the company logo. It hit me when I arrived at this KFC out in the middle of the M3. All the staff were oriental, from the sales assistants to the kitchen re-heaters. There wasn’t a black, white or East Asian face among them. And the manager? Nowhere to be seen as usual.
It’s quite plain that none of them want to be there, but more likely than not they have to be. Perhaps they have family to support or they’re trying to fund their education. Though, even if their reason for working at a fast food chain aren’t that noble, it still disgusts me to see people being herded in to a marginal group and subconsciously taught to accept certain workplace values. In others words, targeting minority groups and recruiting people of similar class and race to develop branch uniformity, so that workers feel relaxed with their colleagues and don’t question their employers.
This system keeps the minority groups away from the managerial and decision-making positions, ensuring that the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. Of course, in a conformist environment such as a fast food restaurant, when a worker of ethnic background does make manager what’s to stop them repeating the patterns that they had been forced to believe for years? Fast food giants are quick to present shining examples of equality in ads and carefully selected case studies, but treat views that they exploit and disrespect their workers as false claims. Yet when I see social inequality of this kind, that has been going on for years and continues to replicate itself, there’s no coincidence about it.