Since the 90’s, it has almost always been rather obvious as to what the majority of fast food workers in Southern California share; their ethnicity. Go to any McDonalds, Carls Jr., Jack in the Box, or Burger King and you’ll see that almost all the workers are of some hispanic or latino background. Many times those workers also speak limited English and I am certain there are some who speak none at all. These jobs are dominated by hispanics and latinos because the jobs require little education although McDonalds does need a worker of 18 yrs. or older to have a GED.
I work at an In-n-Out restaurant and most people know it stands above the usual fast food places. Our starting pay is 10$/hour, which is 2$ more than minimum wage according to minimum-wage.org. Besides higher pay, workers are sent on all expenses paid trips to Disneyland and other parks. The managers whose stores ranked highest a few years ago were sent to Switzerland for free. The company also requires its employees to interact with customers daily, eliminating the possibly of a worker with very limited english. My store is located in Porter Ranch, an area that is predominantly white, middle eastern and asian. However, more than 75% of the workers at my store are hispanic or latino. Even the managers are predominantly hispanic. I have had the opportunity to work with over twenty different managers in the years that I’ve been with the company and only four managers were white. This is largely due however, to the fact that the company is owned by the Harry Snyder’s granddaughter Lindsey. The majority of my coworkers live in the areas of Panorama City, Pacoima, and Reseda, all heavily hispanic populated areas. My store isn’t even the closest In-n-Out to most of them. Two of my coworkers were actually active gang members for a long period of time. One of them, Ernie, is actually younger than I am and yet he’s been shot three times and stabbed eight times. The other is Benny, who may actually still be somewhat active in his gang. He is tattooed literally from his neck down to bottom of his feet. These are just the two extremes however. So why is this? Why does a company like In-n-Out, which is typically held with much higher standards still attract workers of a particular background? According to Cleaning Up/Kept Down: A Historical Perspective on Racial Inequality in “Women’s Work”, before World War II, “People of color were relegated to jobs considered too dangerous, demeaning or unstable for European-American workers. Because people of color could not compete on an equal footing with Whites, Whites monopolized “clean work.”(Glenn, 1336) Is this still true today? Do fast food restaurants demonstrate the same idea explained in the book, just a little evolved since then? I say yes but of course there are those who would disagree. Another little interesting aspect is that aside from the ethnic domination, there is even quite a bit of division of labor according to gender. Girls typically do the produce, such as preparing the lettuce, onions and tomatoes while the guys get the dirty work like taking out the trash or cooking on the grill. However I am not going to go deeply into that right now. Another topic for another blog perhaps.