This Starbucks Worker Is Right—8 Hours Working Public Service Is Ridiculous
A few days ago, Fox News host Jesse Watters mocked a Starbucks worker and union organizer named Evan for describing his horrific working conditions, which included verbal abuse, long weekend shifts, misgendering, neglect from his manager, corporate retaliation, and constant staffing shortages. Predictably, Watters scrounged around for a strawman and decided that what Evan was really complaining about was the very concept of an 8-hour workday.
Uh huh. Okay, Jesse.
Watters’ angle is preposterous on its face, since that’s obviously not what Evan is describing in his video. But you know what? Even if 8 hours behind the counter were the only complaint Evan had, he’d still be right. Because even if you believe an 8 hour workday is the best possible arrangement (which is debatable at best), 8 hours in one day is way too long to spend dealing with the public.
Before I was lucky enough to be able to write full time, I worked as a librarian for 10 years. Many library jobs include daily shifts at the public service desk, and those shifts often aren’t much different from retail or food service (both of which I’ve also worked). Some patrons are really nice and easygoing. Others have mind-bogglingly complicated demands, like books that don’t exist, or information that you’d need to be a private eye to get. Some call you names, or spew bigotry at you, or sexually harass you, or physically assault you. If you’re at a quiet branch, you can roll with the occasional problem, but if your branch is busy or understaffed—especially if there’s a crisis breaking out, like a fist fight or a drug overdose—then things can get really overwhelming really fast.
Luckily, most of my library jobs had strong unions, so we were able to negotiate desk time (and, unlike my retail and food service days, we could sit down). At the last library I worked in, librarians only worked an average of 2 public service hours a day, with an absolute maximum of 4. The rest of the day was devoted to work we could do behind the scenes. Why did we have such a strict limit on desk hours? Because, as we were taught in our training, dealing with the public nonstop leads to health problems and burnout. This isn’t theoretical. Ask me how I got shingles in my 30s!
I’m not saying that all public service jobs are equally stressful. But if workers are posting tearful videos about how bad things have gotten, then their working conditions are way beyond unacceptable.
So, for anyone out there who’s rolling their eyes at an overworked Starbucks employee, why don’t you go work a few 8-hour shifts at Starbucks if you think it’s so easy? It must be way more chill than your current job, so set aside a few weekends and go give it a try! I’ll show up with a list of twenty complicated drinks that I want you to make in two minutes, and then have a screaming fit when you can’t magically produce them. You can handle it, right?
(featured image: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
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