Globalization and Inequality: from the Viewpoint of Fast Food

In centuries past, a young worker would apprentice for years, learning a craft at the feet of a master. Today, companies try to create systems that require “zero-training.” Fast food industry is one of the best examples of this. I think the shift was caused by the industrial movement. In early 19th century, people had to work with the limited technology and often required handwork that took long time to complete a task. This was basically the feature of traditional industry. However, people have been more and more impatient as the technology developed because they can do the mass production and do things much faster than the traditional manmade task. Because of this alternative technology, new types of industry came to exist and new types of business started from it and there was a significant proportional transfer from the previous industry to new types of industry and the business.

Many sociologists argue that organization and mechanization of fast food restaurants create an “interchangeable” industry. In this environment, teenagers are the best kind of employee for fast food companies. The purpose of the mechanization of workplace is to increase the “throughput” with the small number of employees. Mechanizations were designed to do jobs as fast and much as possible. Fast food companies didn’t depend on the skills or talents of the employees but the “innovative technology” that requires no training. Therefore, fast food companies basically didn’t care who are working for them and gave great importance to the mechanical systems that organize the environment which was for “mass production.” And the companies try to make the systems and instruction/direction of it as simple as possible so that anyone, especially the teenager, can easily follow it, which requires no talents or skills of the workers. Therefore, the companies can employ anyone and that’s why they can replace people easily when they got tired of it. Teenagers were targeted because the companies can hire them with fewer wages to pay because they have no experiences and skills and can reduce the labor costs. Moreover, since teenagers don’t have knowledge of society and how society works, they are easily controlled by the people in top.

Other than mechanization, fast food companies use various strategies to keep labor costs down. When U.S. experienced the end of baby-boom, the fast food companies were targeting “immigrants, the elderly and the handicapped” that were I think poor and can be hired with cheap wages and longer working time. Another strategy was to hire the crew members. The employers arrange their schedules so that they can limit the amount of work they can do and at the same time not making the overtime payment. And often the companies used some tactics to force the employees to work and control their working time. Even though the workers work for overtime, some companies cheated by just erasing the working time on the papers and force them to just work, ignoring their complaints and claims. Moreover, employers often don’t pay wages but serve food to the “minors and recent immigrants” instead of the overtime payment.

by Hirokazu Takeuchi

Reference
Schlosser, E. (2005). Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal. Harper Perennial.

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2 thoughts on “Globalization and Inequality: from the Viewpoint of Fast Food

  1. Your post ais really interesting to me. It seems like that people, especially young teenagers, are treated as a machine, exploiting their “joyful youth”. In your context, fast food companies and other employees are missing the aim of the word “work”. They can make great economical profits, but it does not seem to make us happy.
    Then,what we should do? I can only say these process and consequence is horrible to me. I don’t think we should make revolution or don’t need to take any actions. What do you think the best choice is, looking the reality?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Mr. Kudo. In our extremely rationalized lives, much of our modern global economy can truly become colonized by “zero-training” philosophy, and much will always depend on highly skilled individuals as I mentioned in the blog post. I think it’s really hard to re-shift this trend because it requires enormous energies. In addition, this trend have been a global scale and each country have to compete each other in technologies and these situation requires more and more labor who has to work at “zero-training” work-place. Therefore, the “zero-training” have embedded into part of the culture and the culture is even shifting from the traditional one to technological one. Moreover, everyone feel comfortable in this kind of (fast paced) life and even though we get to know the fact, I think most of them doesn’t think that as a serious problem or some might think that’s the way it is in real life. Therefore, I think that the shift is almost an unstoppable one even though I really think that we should reconsider this situation.

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