I stopped by yesterday to visit my friend Jane who I wrote about a few days ago in “Class Warfare At Big Flo’s Diner, Let Them Eat Hash.”
I thought it was her day off. I was wrong.
It was mid afternoon on a steamy Saturday and she was ironing her uniform for work, but she poured me a beer and we sat on her front porch and talked for an hour or so about the article.
She was amazed, as was I, that so many people, hundreds, took the time to comment on our portrayal of her dilemma, and did so, for the most part, in a positive and supportive fashion.
There are a few ironies involved in this story that I didn’t report as I felt that they had nothing to do with the “guts” of the story which, I believed, was the rampant and criminal exploitation of the working class, specifically, of my friend Jane, by the criminal class that is corporate America.
I suppose that the major irony, and I’m sure that many have already guessed this, is that when Jane arrived at “Big Flo’s” ten years ago she was a disaffected Democrat who had become a Reagan Republican and voted for George HW Bush and would later vote for his addled progeny, Shrub.
She is open about her disdain for, and disappointment with, our minority party over the past decade and more, and at times in that period was enthusiastic about her support for Bush.
Her enthusiasm though, has steadily waned as her financial condition has weakened under the pro business anti labor policies of the administration of “Bush the Lesser.”
Jane says she will probably return to the Democratic fold in this coming election as she comes full circle and accepts her new mantle as a “Disaffected Republican” ( I like that phrase, I find it … musical, almost joyful.)
I’m sure that Jane is just one of millions of working class people who have spent a great deal of time and energy since the Reagan era, voting for people who despise and neglect them, publicly supporting policies that abuse and impoverish them, and finally gently stroking the gloved fist of the masters who beat them.
I have a feeling that this fact speaks, certainly, to a large amount of political naiveté in our electorate, but even more points to the enormous strength of the Republican, Corporate, Religious propaganda machine that with the almost limitless funds at it’s disposal, successfully disseminates lie after lie in their education of … well, Jane.
I say that to tell you this.
Jane works overtime for “Big Flo’s” for free.
Yes, free, and here, as I promised, is another irony: she considers it a perk, granted to her because of her long and faithful service and her position as a team leader.
Here’s how it works: The Corporation sets strict guidelines for the operation of individual locations. Through the arcane ministrations and dictates of their legion of bishop like CPAs they pass along regular fiats regarding every aspect of management to the bottom tier of the organization.
If the head CPA wizard says that food costs must not rise above 35%, or labor costs will not exceed 18% then those commandments are carved in stone tablets and placed around the neck of the individual store manager. It is holy writ from on high, and woe unto any lowly slug of a manager whose budget shows abnormally high expenditures for fried okra or dinner rolls.
But labor is another thing. States generally don’t pass laws about how a restaurant spends money on food or beverage, but they do, for the good of all of us, regulate the number of hours that an employees can be required to work before they must be compensated with a premium rate of pay their efforts.
In Ohio the limit is forty hours in one week and after that the employee must be paid at their hourly rate plus one half.
In Jane’s case this would make her wages of $2.36 per hour skyrocket to an astronomical and potentially, economy wrecking $3.54 per hour for every hour she works over forty.
This would be an egregious and possibly catastrophic violation of the holy writ on food costs which might turn the entire restaurant industry on it’s ear and cannot be permitted.
Restaurant’s must be fully staffed in order to meet the expectations of their customers or the customers will leave and become someone Else’s customers. Diners tend to be picky about slow service, cold food and other un niceties affecting their dining out experience.
Restaurants also experience a high volume of employee turn over (one wonders why) and there are vacation schedules and illnesses, family emergencies, broken cars, dogs swallowing car keys, plain old garden variety hangovers or sometimes just a lack of interest in reporting for such a crummy job and well …even … lies, anyway, a great variety of reasons why employees call off work.
But someone must be there to serve the fried okra and the dinner rolls to an ever voracious public, hence on many a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, when Jane’s compliment of weekly hours has been filled, when clocking any additional time will require paying her over time, her phone rings with a request to fill in for Marie or Rose or Belle or Jerry and she dutifully irons a uniform, cancels whatever plans she had for her day off and reports in, to cover the hole in the battle lines of the fried okra frontier.
“Big Flo’s,” is of course, filled with gratitude at this selfless exhibition of dedication and loyalty and happily reciprocates by paying her … nothing.
Nothing …… Nothing and no/100s. Zippola.
Were she to be paid, her pay would have to be at the rate of time and a half because the extra shift puts her over forty hours for the week.
To pay her over time would threaten the holy writ regarding labor as a percentage of overhead, violate that entire relevant chapter of the gospel according to CPAs and possibly throw the entire food service industry into turmoil, at the least, certainly, manager’s heads would roll all the way to the district level.
No, the only sound business solution, and the only fair way to handle this and not threaten the sanctity of the bottom line is for Jane to work for free, to come in, cover the shift, not clock in, not receive compensation from a company of over twenty five thousand employees, to work for tips only, and she does it at least twice a month, because, “I need the extra money.”
You know the drill, the car needs a new battery, behind on the gas bill, a Grand child’s birthday, saving a few bucks for Christmas, whatever.
In addition, she also knows that to refuse or to complain might cause her to lose her position as “Team Leader” and have her hours cut back to twenty four as well as suffer an hourly reduction which might just be the difference between her small but comfortable apartment in a nice area or some hellhole in subsidized low income housing.
That old “Big Flo’s,” they’re a “family” oriented company and pride themselves on their old fashioned American values of God and Country, of loyalty, dedication and hard work. Why. many of it’s executives are Christian men who sit in the front rows of their churches.
Well, a couple of years back a few employees (commies no doubt, hell, probably even liberals) sued “Big Flo’s” for violations of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act specifically for the kind of criminal behavior described above.
Given the nature of our pointy headed activist court system poor old “Big Flo’s” was forced to settle, for millions. No criminal charges, no admission of guilt, no public scorn or ridicule, our pointy headed courts aren’t that pointy headed.
No one is allowed to discuss the settlement though. By corporate fiat, managers are forbidden from discussing it with the help and the help is forbidden from asking management about the settlement.
They have however provided claim forms that employees can send in to corporate if they want to share in the award for claims for unpaid overtime or other abuses.
Jane showed me her claim form, she’s had it for a year, I don’t think she’s going to file, she depends on her job, to stay alive, in America.
The phone still rings on Saturday or Sunday and Jane, ever loyal, ever diligent still covers the battle lines in the okra wars.
For Tips only.
We have had, I believe, eighteen years of Republican administrations out of the twenty six years that have passed since Reagan was elected.
For the past twelve we have faced almost total control by the most thoroughly corrupt governmental and corporate structure that, to my knowledge, has ever existed in this country.
To make matters worse, much worse, our minority party has spent a great deal of it’s time and squandered it’s political capital trying to appear to be the Tories go Litely, but with better cocktail parties.
The end result is that my friend Jane and millions of others like her are standing in line for minimum wage, or less. Or nothing.