The workers who feed America are exhausted. Now they face Omicron
She describes the experience as “the scariest thing you can imagine in your life. I don’t want to go through this again.”
She wants McDonald’s to “impose” the safety issue on its franchisees and customers – to “push the safety effort” – and is frustrated that the company does not force customers to wear masks or do a better job telling workers when an employee Tested positive for Covid-19.
She has three different jobs in the fast food industry, often waking up at 5:30 a.m. and working until 2:00 a.m. the next morning. Sometimes she sleeps in her car in the McDonald’s parking lot and returns there during the day for quick naps. But she still struggles to pay her bills.
“My body is tired but I’m going anyway because I need it,” she said.
The owner of the McDonald’s location where Edie worked before he fell ill last year said he maintains strict hygiene standards, including contact tracing and mask warrants for staff.
“The health and well-being of my restaurant employees, customers and the Broward County community is my top priority,” said Brad Ashlin, owner of the McDonald’s franchise, in a statement. “We continue to make changes to our catering operations to help keep our customers and crew safe in accordance with local regulations and advice from health experts and the CDC as new variants of Covid emerge. . “
McDonald’s did not respond to a request for comment on its allegations about the conditions of its current restaurant.
The toll of low-wage work in America
Omicron’s rapid surge in the United States is putting new strain on already exhausted and fed-up store and restaurant staff after nearly two years of working through a deadly pandemic.
These workers in direct contact with customers faced daily exposure to a deadly virus while on the job. At least 213 retail and grocery workers have died from Covid-19 and more than 50,000 have been infected or exposed, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
All of this has an impact on the physical and mental health of workers, said Ken Jacobs, president of the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California at Berkeley.
“The Omicron variant brings back a lot of these problems,” Jacobs said. “Frontline retail and food service workers are once again faced with difficult decisions about health risks and the need to put food on their own tables.”
I can’t stay at home
But interviews with workers in recent days reveal their distress at working amid the latest wave of Covid-19. Workers are also enraged by the way they were treated during the pandemic by their employers and say their voices have been ignored.
Liz Wesley, floral manager at a King Soopers supermarket in Colorado Springs, Colo. That earns $ 20.51 an hour, said she was “exhausted not having support in the store and feeling like we were not respected ”.
“I don’t feel like the company is keeping us informed,” Wesley said.
Many customers have stopped wearing masks or maintaining social distancing, she said, but they are not held to any standards.
“King Soopers has placed its sales and customers, however rude, unruly and unwilling to keep their distance, above the people working in the store.”
She is exhausted and feels taken for granted at work. But she has no other choice.
“If I could have stayed home and made a living, I would have. I don’t have that luxury.”
Kroger paid an additional $ 1,200 to part-time workers and $ 1,760 to full-time employees to “reward and recognize them” during the pandemic, a company spokesperson said in an email.
“The safety of our associates and clients remains our top priority,” said the spokesperson. As Kroger prepares to go through the next phase of the pandemic, he is changing his policies to “continue to encourage safe behavior.”
“Front line of cultural wars”
The UFCW sent a letter this month to 63 retail chains calling on them to take measures such as promoting the wearing of masks for customers, distributing free PPE to workers, reinstating measures of social distancing in stores, the provision of paid sick leave for immunization appointments, and the implementation of “wage inflation protection”.
Store mask policies have also changed as the pandemic continues and could become a flashpoint again.
One of the main contributors to this stress has been customer behavior.
Now, as Omicron spreads and masking becomes an important means of keeping people safe, Mayer fears workers will once again be “on the front lines of culture wars” around masks, social distancing and home care.
If clients have grown accustomed to not wearing masks or maintaining social distancing over the past few months, there might be more resistance to go back, he said.
“It will be the front-line workers that customers encounter on a regular basis, such as workers in retail and food service, who bear the brunt of their frustrations.”