restaurant servers

On New Year’s Eve, a video went viral of a fast-food worker at McDonald’s being assaulted.

In the video, we see a man upset about there not being plastic straws in the lobby, and aggressively complaining to a female employee about it. The city where this incident occurred — St. Petersburg, Florida — voted in December 2018 to ban plastic straws by 2020. This law began with “a grace period in 2019 in which customers must specifically request plastic straws at city businesses.” The young female employee relayed this information to the customer, who argued there was no law of the kind.

Then, the situation got ugly. The man leaned across the counter, invaded this worker’s space, and yanked her forward. The employee proceeded to defend herself against a man who thought it acceptable to physically accost someone over a straw. The incident didn’t get prettier, even after the customer and employee were broken up. Another witness account stated the customer also kicked the employee in the stomach while being kicked out.

Here’s the thing: this incident is sadly not one of a kind. Over the years, there have been several incidents where workers in what people perceive as unrespectable professions have been treated less than fairly. These workers are often victims of verbal abuse, and in more extreme scenarios, physical abuse.

Another recent example was the “tipping trick,” in which the customer laid five $1 bills on the table, and any time the server “messed up,” he removed one of the bills. This is one of the most demeaning things I’ve ever heard. The federal minimum wage is at least $2.13 for tipped employees. Tips are a server’s livelihood. To treat someone’s job as a game is condescending and disgusting. Your employer doesn’t take money from your paycheck whenever you have mishaps or make minor mistakes.

Society has a habit of treating people who don’t work in what they deem “professional environments” as less-than. People look down on them and make it evident in their treatment of them. These are workers just making a hard-earned living, which I thought was the American way. It seems I was wrong.

Besides, what happened to the Golden Rule? What happened to manners? What happened to mutual respect? All of these concepts are diminished in the face of people sitting on their elitist high horse.

You cannot simultaneously demean a person while receiving a service they’re providing for you. Not only is it morally wrong, but it’s classist and elitist. These workers do not deserve the brunt of whatever frustration you’re experiencing in life, or the consequences of your misguided views.

Maya Stevenson is a 19-year-old English and economics sophomore from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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