Large fast food chains are endangering the public by staying open

By not sending employees home with pay, companies risk public health

Fast+food+companies+that+are+choosing+to+keep+drive-thrus+open+during+the+COVID-19+pandemic+are+putting+their+employees+and+the+public+at+risk+to+contract+this+contagious+virus.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+freestocks.org%29

Fast food companies that are choosing to keep drive-thrus open during the COVID-19 pandemic are putting their employees and the public at risk to contract this contagious virus. (Photo courtesy of freestocks.org)

Josh Ghiorso, Arts & Culture Editor

The spread of COVID-19 has caused many small businesses to shut down and larger chains to close, however there are still essential places that need employees. Essential workers are those like nurses and doctors, but also grocery store employees, fast food places and a few others. 

But are all of these jobs as essential as the others? In the case of big fast food chains, like where I work, it seems that many of the locations are staying open just to make a little more money in the pockets of the higher-ups.

Stimulus money has been handed out though different programs, like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), to companies to keep them afloat, but most of the money is being sent to the larger chain companies before trickling down to smaller companies. This leaves small businesses with  fewer resources and often no money. 

The PPP already has had large issues with distribution going to large companies like Shake Shack, which received around $10 million, even though the loans were supposed to support small businesses, not multi-state franchises. Shake Shack is giving back the money, but only after being pressured; there is no part of the law requiring them to return the money.

This may mean that smaller companies who apply may get nothing and are having to lay off employees because there is uncertainty of their financial future. This money may also end up going to companies that are still open and deemed essential. 

Specifically, with big chain fast food companies being considered essential, there is a lot wrong with keeping employees at work instead of offering paid leave when the chains can afford to pay out its employees. Many of the fast food chains are offering pay raises for the duration of the crisis, but are not offering paid leave. 

An example of a large chain closing but still providing pay for its employees is Starbucks, which has offered paid leave, or the option of a raise while working during the pandemic. This has given employees at least the choice to stay home and stay safe during the pandemic.

Another way in which fast food chains are trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to offer take-out or curbside pick-up only, but this does little to protect human contact, as the customer and employee have to exchange food and also payment. 

When companies that can afford to send people home with secure pay during a pandemic like this where as little contact as possible is essential, they are putting the workers in danger as well as the public in a number of ways.

If some employees are sick and want to be safe and self-quarantine, they may not be able to, as they may have to return to work because their sick pay is very limited. Workers may not report when they are sick if they are afraid that they would be sent home with no pay. 

As someone who works in the fast food industry and as an essential worker, I know how lucky I am to have job security in times like this; however I also know that I work for a multi-million dollar company that could afford to pay for its employees to stay home. But they remain open because they are not required by law to shut down, and are looking to stay as financially secure as possible, even to the possible detriment of their employees, customers and the greater public. 

My workplace has recently allowed us to wear masks after previously prohibiting them, and the masks they have handed out are very low quality. 

 When companies that can afford to send people home with secure pay during a pandemic like this, where as little contact as possible is essential, they are putting the workers in danger as well as the public in a number of ways. 

Simply because essential workers can work during a pandemic, doesn’t mean that they should be forced to work, especially if they don’t have to.