Another slap in the face for the working poor

Non-compete clauses for fast food line workers becoming the norm in the U.S.


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ATLANTA, Georgia Dec 3, 2015/ Troy Media/ – In the latest insult to people who want to work and who generally do not want to be on assistance, fast food chains in the United States like Jimmy John’s want its line workers to sign non-compete clauses as a condition of employment.

Because of the scarcity of jobs in general (despite lower unemployment numbers), we are increasingly seeing more adults having to take minimum wage jobs to survive. I dubbed these workers “Stringers” (since they need to string jobs together to make ends meet) in our Amazon Top Rated book HIRED! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era. And this is no minor happening. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are some 3.7 million stringers.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a section called The Vent. Unlike its Letters to the Editor page where a person’s name and city are printed, individuals writing a Vent are totally anonymous. Any Joe or Jane Blow can submit something he or she wants to vent about, and it might be published. As you can expect, there are some doozies!

For example, there has been talk of raising the minimum wage. The outrage over the possibility of a pay increase for the lowest of the low earners has been amazing.

My favourite example of how out of touch much of the population is about the reality of the working poor trying to make ends meet was expressed in the following Vent, in which this Mensa candidate wrote, “If you’re not making enough at your minimum wage job, just get another one.”

We won’t get into a huge discussion about the socioeconomic ramifications, but let’s do some simple math to demonstrate how hard it would be to survive, much less get ahead, by having to string jobs together. Minimum wage in most of the U.S. is $7.25 per hour. If working a full 40 hours, the employee would make a whopping $290 per week (before taxes). A second job might bring in an additional $145 per week for a grand total of $435, or the lavish annual salary of $22,620. That’s working 60 hours per week. By the way, the U.S. federal poverty line is an annual income of $23,550 for a family of four.

Of course, we’re making a number of assumptions here. Changing any of them could alter the equation dramatically. For the sake of argument, here’s what the Vent writer assumes a minimum wage worker could easily do:

  • Get a second, part-time minimum wage job in the first place
  • Travel from one job to the other seamlessly
  • Get both employers to work with the employee’s work schedules
  • Not get sick or be forced to miss time for other reasons
  • Manage to get a full 60 hours per week
  • Work 60 hours per week every week of the year

I think you would agree that it would take divine intervention for a Stringer to juggle all these variables. Inevitably, balls would drop . . . and so would their income.

Unfortunately, once a person enters the “stringer” working poor way of life, it is virtually impossible to get out of it since survival is their driving force. There’s no time for school, no time for certifications, no time for training, no time to properly raise children who are likely destined to be sucked in the same employment track.

Maybe the Vent’s author should spend a year walking in the worn-out shoes of a stringer before assuming that minimum wage workers have it so easy.

But now the corporate Fat Cats want to take this option from the working poor too. Non-compete clauses as a condition of employment is a bridge to far, don’t you think?

Oh, by the way, the executives who have to sign non-competes and leave the company usually get paid through the end of the period where they can’t go elsewhere. Low wage workers are just out of luck.

Would you like fries with that?

Al Smith is co-author of the Amazon Top Rated book, HIRED! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era, is a Keynote Speaker, Career Coach and Resume Writer. Al is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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