Fast food= fast insults


Arlene Rufino

18 year old Leslie takes a customer’s orders.

“You have to do good in school, or else you’ll end up working at McDonald’s.” I remember sitting in class while my teacher shouted this when talking about our future. We’ve always created a negative and degrading image of fast-food workers. We’ve labeled them as lazy, uneducated, and with no future.

Getting your first job is one of the most exciting moments when becoming a young adult. However, due to being young and inexperienced, many employers turn away young adults which results in young adults turning to fast food for their first jobs. According to Black Box Intelligence, in 2021 teenagers made up 24% of those employed in the fast-food industry.

I got my first job at 16 at McDonald’s down the street from my house. When I got hired, I was beyond excited to have my first real job. However, soon after many of my family members found out, they had their share of opinions. Many were quick to belittle me and tell me I was “wasting my time.” Although many may not see this as a big deal, getting belittled for your job does eventually take a toll. 

Jesus Anguian, 22, a current department manager at McDonald’s, spoke about how family and friends tend to belittle him when he mentions that he works at McDonald’s.

“You have your friends, like your group of friends and everybody is like ‘ I work at Amazon,’ or ‘I work this’ and ‘I work that.’ And they’re like essentially good jobs, you know what I mean? But when they ask ‘Where do you work?’ ‘Oh you work at McDonald’s’ and they make it kinda weird.” 

Anguiano also expressed that people tend not to take him seriously until he reveals that he holds a higher position. “I always make sure to be like ‘Yea but I’m a department manager at McDonald’s’ and then they’re like ‘oh wow what’s that like.’”

Diana Olivares, 21, another department manager at McDonald’s shared her own experiences about others around her belittling her over her job.

“Sometimes when people ask me (where do you work?), I don’t want to tell them. And when you say McDonald’s it’s like ‘Oh… They’re gonna stay there forever’ ” said Olivares.

Olivares also shared how customers tend to feel that they have the right to disrespect workers. “And then customers, you know how they are. They make you feel ‘not good’ just because you’re working here… like here at McDonald’s (compared to other fast-food restaurants) people are rude here for no reason. They walk in like they know everything about what we do,” said Olivares. 

We’ve made it socially acceptable to disrespect those who do not have an “ideal career.” Many fast-food workers did not choose to work there; many needed a job and were given an opportunity to provide a stable income for their families. 

General Manager Ana Altemerano, spoke about how McDonald’s has given her many opportunities, not only for herself but for her family as well.

Altemerano stated, “McDonald’s allowed me to put both of my daughters through college, I don’t think many people can say that. And McDonald’s has given me endless opportunities to advance my career. There’s many ways you can move up, it’s not only being a crew member.”

Altemerano also shared that her kids were often bullied simply because of where their mother worked. 

“One of the teachers made a remark that if ‘You didn’t go to school you were gonna end up at McDonald’s’ and then my daughter came home crying asking ‘Did you do bad in school?’ because I was working at McDonald’s,’ said Altemerano. 

McDonald’s has always been seen as a “low-life” job or even as “not a real job.” However, McDonald’s has always provided a secure and stable job for anyone above the age of 16.  

Sebastian Morales,19, a current McDonald’s manager, spoke about how McDonald’s provided an opportunity for him to be able to provide for himself and his family. 

“I needed a job because of the pandemic, and since I just started college, it was the most convenient for me.” Morales had been previously employed by Amazon but was laid off at the start of the pandemic.

Morales also shared his own negative experiences with customers.

“They basically just said ‘What the heck are you even doing here, what are you even doing with your life, you’re just wasting your life’ and you know, things like that,” he said.

Morales stated, “I feel that other jobs don’t understand the struggle that fast-food workers have. The pressure from customers, and other coworkers, it’s just overwhelming. And when working at other jobs, it’s slow-paced. And here we constantly have to be fast and constantly moving. They don’t get that.” 

Like many of my coworkers, working in fast food provided a convenient job and stable income for me. However, having this opportunity at a young age has provided many lifelong skills as well. Working at McDonald’s has allowed me to learn how to multitask, communicate with others, balance work/school life as well as allowed me to develop my leadership skills. As a fast-food worker myself, I don’t expect others to praise us as they do doctors and lawyers, and other professions. However, it is about basic respect as a human being. Many of my encounters with rude customers have included words like “low life,” “a failure,” and “a dumb little girl.” 

As a society, we should learn to break the stigma around what we consider “real”/”good jobs” and what we consider “dead-end jobs.”