Thursday, May 16, 2013

What a Whopper

It's interesting to think about your own biases and how the decisions you make don't really make sense. I don't remember the last time I ate at, or was even in, a major fast food chain location. Except Subway, which I've grudgingly eaten at while cycling somewhere or just when I forgot to bring lunch to work. Why? Because it's "healthy"? I have no excuse really, as it's the largest chain restaurant in the world, and while their wikipedia page is mostly controversy free I'm pretty sure that as a huge multi-million (billion?) dollar company, they're probably as bad as any other large capitalist corporation. (Though maybe that's my biases showing...)

This comic deals with some of those controversies that large companies frequently deal with (and which most people never hear of or care about). In this case it's slave-labour (or close to it) that's used to pick the vegetables that are served in these "restaurants". The comic communicates this information effectively, beginning with a (true) story about migrant workers trying to escape from the terrible conditions they're dealing with, and then tackling the way the corporations have dealt with these issues.

The issue at hand is how terrible the (frequently illegal) workers who pick these vegetables are paid. They work in appalling conditions, for money that hasn't increased in 25 years. In the case covered here they fought for a 1 cent increase per bucket of tomatoes they harvested. Bringing the total they earned to 51 cents per 32 pound bucket. How much do you think you could earn hauling those around all day? I'm guessing I could make pretty much fuck all.

While the comic eventually concentrates on the actions of the Burger King company to avoid paying any increase to workers (including fining companies who they worked with who agreed to pay their workers extra), other information is also conveyed to the reader. While the conditions the tomato pickers in this comic deal with are deplorable, I already knew that migrant workers dealt with those issues (and more!). But one small throw away piece of information completely blew my mind. 

While discussing a boycott of certain companies who refused to increase the amount workers earned the comic states that "Taco Bell was blocked from 22 college and high school campuses". Maybe nothing in that sentence seems weird to you, but to me? Oh my fuck! High schools have Taco Bells? What the fuck is wrong with society if high schools have fucking fast food restaurants (presumably with high school students working in them)? Underfunding education while lining corporate pockets. Great job everyone, pat yourself on the back.

So yeah, corporations are horrible, capitalism is awful, humans are frequently terrible, but this comic by Dan Archer was pretty good. Even if it made me upset and angry at least it talked about the good that many people and organizations are doing and provided places for people to find more information about the issues.

So in the spirit of that here's some information about Burger King labour controversies, and the Student/Farmworker Alliance who hope to "eliminate sweatshop conditions and modern-day slavery in the fields". I wish them my best.

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