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Food 'We are working ten times harder for no reason': Desperate, terrified fast food workers from across the US expose the bleak reality of working during the coronavirus outbreak

18:40  29 march  2020
18:40  29 march  2020 Source:   businessinsider.com

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' We are working ten times harder for no reason ': Desperate , terrified fast food workers from Fast - food workers worry amid the coronavirus outbreak . Business Insider spoke to more than 30 workers in the last two weeks about what it is actually like working during the coronavirus outbreak .

Is the coronavirus negatively impacting your finances? You may be able to pause up to eight bill Many employees are out of work or facing reduced hours as US businesses temporarily close to ' We are working ten times harder for no reason ': Desperate , terrified fast food workers from across

Fast-food workers have been deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic. But, that does little to ease the concerns of employees at chains like McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Jack in the Box are feeling as they continue to head to work.

  Source: © Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

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"I am practically bathing in hand sanitizer," said Niki, a McDonald's worker and former nurse. "I fear that I'm a soldier on the front line, bound to be the first to fall. Over cheeseburgers."

Business Insider spoke to more than 30 workers in the last two weeks about what it is actually like working during the coronavirus outbreak.

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' We are working ten times harder for no reason ': Desperate , terrified fast food workers from across the US expose the bleak reality of working during the coronavirus outbreak . UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces that he has the coronavirus just hours after Boris Johnson also

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Chains are working to improve safety measures, but many workers feel that their lives are still at risk. While most workers now have paid sick leave due to new legislation, few can afford to take time off work until they actually have symptoms.

Workers say they're dealing with rude customers, safety scares, and difficulties maintaining recommended physical distance between individuals. Many feel that they're forced to risk their health and the health of their families for near-minimum wage pay. Some workers are seeking hazard pay, as companies like Costco, Target, and Amazon raise wages.

However, with restaurants' sales plummeting, it seems unlikely that most employers - with Starbucks serving as the rare exception - will give workers a financial boost. Instead, many employees say their hours are being cut, meaning they are making even less money as they risk exposing themselves and their families to the coronavirus.

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Workers are worried, with many begging bosses to shut down stores a person sitting on a bus © Yaoinlove/Shutterstock

Business Insider spoke with more than 30 chain restaurant workers via email, phone calls, and social media direct messages about what it is like working during the coronavirus pandemic. We verified these workers' identities and employment through pay stubs or other documentation. The workers were granted anonymity or are referred to only by their first name in order to speak freely about their experience.

In total, more than 100 people have reached out to Business Insider to express concerns, including more than 50 people who said they or a family member worked at McDonald's. Emotional emails and further interviews revolved around the potential dangers of going to work, as well as the financial risks of staying home.

"It would be better for everyone if they shut down everything for a few weeks and [tried] to protect everyone involved," said a Jack in the Box worker. "I would rather lose a paycheck or two than keep going out to the job and possibly bringing it home to my daughter."

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She was one of many who said their biggest fear was infecting their family. One Domino's driver said she had not seen her family in a week, terrified she would accidentally get someone sick. Numerous workers were worried about infecting family members with compromised immune systems.

"I fear catching this virus and taking it home," said one McDonald's worker. "I'm already poor. I live paycheck to paycheck, but I would much rather be out of work to help prevent the spread to my children or anyone else. I love my kids and want them to stay safe."

Most major chains - including McDonald's, KFC, Wendy's, and Burger King - announced new sick leave policies in recent weeks, giving workers two weeks off if they test positive for or display symptoms of COVID-19.

Companies with 50 to 500 employees - including many of the franchisees that employ the vast majority of American fast-food workers - are now required to provide two weeks of paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill requires employers to offer paid leave if workers have COVID-19 symptoms, if they are advised to quarantine by a healthcare professional, or if they need to care for a son or daughter whose childcare or school has been shuttered for reasons tied to the coronavirus.

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However, it is exceedingly rare for chains to offer paid leave for workers who simply wish to avoid catching the coronavirus. So, many feel they need to keep going to work. As the coronavirus spreads and nonessential employees are told to stay inside, getting infected can feel like an inevitable side effect of continuing to work.

Financial fears grow, forcing conflicted workers to continue showing up   Fast-food chains like    McDonald's and Taco Bell are staying open amid the   coronavirus outbreak, as    nonessential businesses are forced to close across the US.   Workers told Business Insider that they wished customers  would stop coming into stores unnecessarily and paying with cash.    Some customers have been berating workers, even coughing on  them either accidentally or as a joke amid the coronavirus  outbreak.        Visit   Business Insider's homepage for more stories.     As nonessential businesses across the US are forced to shutter,    fast-food chains are staying open.   Fast-food chains have updated cleaning policies and shut down  seating areas,   as they work to keep employees safe. But, some employees  aren't convinced that stores should stay open and say that  certain customers are making the situation worse.    © Taco Bell
  • Fast-food chains like McDonald's and Taco Bell are staying open amid the coronavirus outbreak, as nonessential businesses are forced to close across the US.
  • Workers told Business Insider that they wished customers would stop coming into stores unnecessarily and paying with cash.
  • Some customers have been berating workers, even coughing on them either accidentally or as a joke amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As nonessential businesses across the US are forced to shutter, fast-food chains are staying open.

Fast-food chains have updated cleaning policies and shut down seating areas, as they work to keep employees safe. But, some employees aren't convinced that stores should stay open and say that certain customers are making the situation worse.

"We have been severely taken advantage of," a Taco Bell manager told Business Insider. "Not just by the government, but by the customers spraying us with Lysol, the customers ignoring their change, the ones making us feel like were the source of the disease."

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The manager and the more than two dozen other workers who spoke with Business Insider over the last week were granted anonymity to allow them to speak freely without fear of retribution. Business Insider confirmed that each employee worked at the company they claimed to, through pay stubs or other documentation.

Fast-food employees offered a wide range of responses on what it is like working during the outbreak. Many are stressed or panicked about catching coronavirus or contributing to its spread. Some wish all locations would shut down, while others are more worried about getting paid if their hours are cut.

Here are six things workers told Business Insider they want customers to know about working during the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite fears, many workers are still showing up at work because they need to pay their bills and support their families.

Losing hours or locations being forced to shut down can be a bigger concern than getting sick. As independent restaurants lay off workers, some employees at fast-food chains said they felt lucky to still have jobs.

"I am grateful that so far I'm able to continue working, but I fear with restaurants being ordered to close I won't have any way to pay my bills or support my children," the worker continued.

Another Taco Bell employee at a different location remained unconvinced of the company's decision to keep stores open for drive-thru and delivery.

"Our drive-thru goes non-stop, one car after the other," the employee said. "It is exhausting us and it is making us weaker. We are working ten times harder for no reason. We are human too. Yes, it's nice to have a job when so many are losing theirs but it isn't worth the risk."

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  McDonald's is rolling out worker wellness checks and plans to start taking their temperatures amid the coronavirus outbreak McDonald's is rolling out wellness checks for workers, which will require employees to answer a series of questions and take their temperatures.Last week, McDonald's internally announced plans to roll out wellness checks at company- and franchisee-owned locations, requiring workers to answer a series of questions regarding possible COVID-19 symptoms and exposure after they clock in to start each shift. If they answer "yes" to any question, workers will be sent home and will not return to work until authorized by a medical professional.

A Taco Bell employee named Brent, who works as a general manager, said he has begun using his vacation days to give his shifts to workers who needed the hours. He recently posted a notice in his store to tell others he would help them file for unemployment benefits.

Employees are risking their lives and working hard, Brent said, but still only making $8.50 an hour. Workers continue to face pressure from management to get sales numbers up. Meanwhile, customers are ruder than ever, spraying workers with Lysol and berating employees over menu changes and shorter hours.

"I feel like chains should cut out the drive-thru window, stick with delivery only, and just deal with the sales loss," Brent said. "This is a pandemic, not a regular day of business. I acknowledge that this seems unreasonable. But, he said, "the $8.50 we are paying the team members doesn't really add up to risking your life over COVID-19."

A Taco Bell representative said that franchisees are required to follow government mandates and that the chain is continuing to update its policies, procedures, and operations as the situation evolves, "while keeping team member and customer health and safety top of mind."

"We hear them and we understand their concerns," the representative said when asked for comment on workers' worries. "Taco Bell and its franchisees, which consist of 350 small businesses, are working to ensure our restaurants are the safest places to work and eat."

Some workers are leaving their jobs, while others weigh options a sign on a pole © David McNew/Getty

Every worker is forced to weigh the risk of going into work, with their franchisees' particular enforcement of safety, cleaning, and leave policies, against the risk of losing pay.

"It's scary right now and we have try not to think about it because we need our jobs," said JP, who works at McDonald's. "I'm prepared to leave my job though if things get too serious and I feel like the company isn't taking appropriate action to keep us safe."

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"The health and safety of myself and family come first," JP continued. "At the end of the day it's just a job; it will still be there tomorrow and the day after that. There is no guarantee that I or my family will be. "

Some workers have already decided that they would rather go without pay than show up to work. Mark, a McDonald's employee who is also the caregiver for his 88-year-old mother, requested a leave of absence two weeks ago.

"Contact between employees is much less than the recommended six feet," Mark said. "I have had more than one customer who have licked their fingers to separate currency and then hand it to me. Even wearing gloves would not help if I were to inadvertently place my hand to my face."

A Wendy's worker who was widowed three months ago said her adult sons recently convinced her it was time to quit her job for her own safety.

"I love my job, coworkers, managers, and guests. The work can be hard, it is fast and, for me, a great joy," she said. "I think it is the most fun of any job I've tried and there have been many. But, at 71, my sons said that they would prefer I stay home for the duration of the COVID-19 event. ... Better safe than sorry."

Fast-food chains are taking action as the situation rapidly evolves   'We are working ten times harder for no reason': Desperate, terrified fast food workers from across the US expose the bleak reality of working during the coronavirus outbreak © Carl Recine/Reuters

Starbucks workers were some of the first chain restaurant workers to take vocal, public action against the company's coronavirus response. More than 35,000 people signed a Coworker.org petition as of Friday calling for Starbucks to suspend its business due to the coronavirus outbreak, as workers spoke out against the idea that the coffee chain was an essential business.

"I have asthma, and going into work where I come in contact with people who are absolutely careless terrifies me," one Starbucks worker told Business Insider last week.

In the days since, Starbucks has rolled out some of the boldest corporate responses to the pandemic. Last Friday, Starbucks announced it was closing all cafés, moving to a drive-thru and delivery-only model. All workers would be paid for 30 days, whether they went to work or not, with employees who did attend work getting a $3 raise.

"If you are looking for signs of hope, look no further than Starbucks partners," Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said in a statement when the chain moved to drive-thru only service. "I am proud of how Starbucks partners around the world are rising to the occasion and demonstrating our resilience and our commitment to the communities we serve."

McDonald's has been continually internally updating its approach to the coronavirus, as the virus spreads and states update their local regulations. While franchisees - not McDonald's corporate headquarters - control operations in 95% of restaurants, the fast-food giant has been constantly revising and updating guidelines to share with franchisees.

Last week, locations shut seating areas, moving to carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery. All stores are now rolling out contactless service, which includes updating how employees are configured while working and creating ways to get food made and handed off to customers without any contact.

"While we continue to serve our communities, the safety, wellness and economic security of our customers and employees is our top priority as it has been throughout our 65-year history and especially today," US President Joe Erlinger said in a statement shared with Business Insider when asked for comment.

"That's why we have taken significant precautions to protect our customers and employees from COVID-19: closing many of our dine-in sections, closing all play areas, increasing cleanings, particularly in high-traffic areas, and making hand sanitizer available in our restaurants," Erlinger continued.

Taco Bell has rolled out new safety measures last two weeks, including providing gloves for all cashiers, increasing sanitizing routines, and ensuring hand sanitizer is available for workers and customers. Taco Bell is working on procedures to help workers with social distancing while working, according to a representative.

"The drive-thru business continues to be essential, and one of the safest ways, for individuals and families to get food quickly and affordably," a Taco Bell representative said.

A Wendy's representative said that the chain has introduced enhanced safety precautions, including rolling out no-contact and limited option ordering options. Carry-out is currently no longer allowed at most Wendy's locations, and all have closed in-restaurant seating areas.

"All Company employees - whether enrolled in a company medical plan or not - have access to our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides free, confidential 24/7 counseling," the representative said. "Further, we have a program in place where all U.S. Company employees have access to telehealth and can see a board-certified doctor through a video consultation from a smartphone, tablet or computer for a low cost, making it easier for employees to get the care they may need."

A Jack in the Box representative did not respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

Fast-food chains aren't closing any time soon a large red chair in a room © Hollis Johnson

It's possible that some locations of fast-food chains will close. McDonald's has shuttered all locations in the UK, Spain, Italy, and France. In the US, even Waffle House - known for its emergency preparedness - has shuttered more than 400 locations for the time being.

However, it seems unlikely that chains will ever completely shut down across America. Healthcare workers and truck drivers are among the groups that have relied on chains to survive during the outbreak, as other restaurants and business close up shop.

President Donald Trump has become involved. Trump held a conference call last week with fast-food industry executives from McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, Papa John's, and the parent company of Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons to discuss the role of chains in the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have the ability to help feed America," Jose Cil, the CEO of Burger King and Popeyes' parent company Restaurant Brands International, told Business Insider last week.

Some fast-food workers are finding greater meaning in their work during the coronavirus pandemic. Joe Black said he is proud to feed healthcare workers and first responders at Wendy's, even as the chain cuts his hours.

"I went from 60 hours to 26 hours," Black said. "I can't live on that and I don't have insurance of a 401k or insurance but I show up at work 'cause I have loyalty and know this too shall pass."

"I work tons, get looked down upon 'cause I don't have a four-year degree, people mock my profession," he continued. "We, fast-food/restaurant [workers] are the backbone of America. ... We are heroes 'cause we show up every day knowing we could get infected but we do it 'cause we know everyone finds comfort in food."

Other workers said they were happy to be able to serve healthcare workers and other essential employees at this time. But they hoped their employers would offer hazard pay and that customers would understand the risk they were taking to show up to work.

"I have gotten thanks in my drive-thru from nurses and healthcare workers for being open, because they're like, we don't know where we get our morning coffee if you guys weren't open," said Niki, the McDonald's worker.

"I want to be open for them," she continued. "But for the people that are coming through just because they feel like they need a frappe or a chocolate shake - we do kind of feel like a little bit a twinge of, 'you selfish a------.'"

Tour Operators Issue Staggering Number of Refunds .
More than $1 billion in refunds have been issued by NTA tour operators.The results of the survey, which was completed on April 3, 2020, shows that NTA tour operators refunded nearly $1 billion to customers due to the cancellations incurred by the virus.

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