I recently reread the book, Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser, for the third time. Like my favorite novel, The Jungle, written by Upton Sinclair, Fast Food Nation is a story that warrants a refresher every few years.
The book’s raw depiction of the social injustices in the exploitation of low-wage workers, especially immigrant workers, and the conditions they are forced to work in, the horrendously inhumane way our farm animals are slaughtered, and the portrayal of how the fast food industry has permanently changed the American landscape, make Schlosser’s book an incredibly educational read.
Fast Food Nation begins with fast food’s inception in Southern California in the 1950’s and takes the reader on its journey to becoming the most powerful industry in the country.
“The basic thinking behind fast food has become the operating system of today’s retail economy, wiping out small businesses, obliterating regional differences, and spreading identical stores throughout the country like a self-replicating code.” (Schlosser)
The takeover of the American culture by the over-franchised fast food industry, including restaurant chains like Applebees, Olive Garden, and Chili’s, has led to the homogenizing of the country’s scenery. No matter what state you travel, you will find a McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Wendy’s, cluttered along the state’s roads and highways, not to mention malls filled with the same retail stores.
“America’s streets and malls now boast the same Pizza Huts and Taco Bells, Gaps and Banana Republics, Starbucks and Jiffy Lubes…Almost every facet of American life has been franchised or chained.” (Schlosser)
When I first read this book ten years ago, I made a conscious effort to patronize independently owned restaurants that are unique to its own cities, establishments that give individual towns character. I no longer wanted to support the conformity the fast food industry has created and thrives on.
There are other reasons I learned from reading this book that encouraged me to turn my back on the fast food industry. Another being its unfair stranglehold of keeping minimum wage low, by employing strong lobbyists, despite the industry’s multi-billion dollar profits.
The industry has successfully kept their workers from unionizing. McDonalds went as far as shutting down one of its restaurants where workers were close to forming a union.
The high turnover rate of employment makes it hard for workers to unionize, but in recent years there has been a strong national push among fast food workers to raise the minimum wage. I completely support this, and after reading this book and seeing how unscrupulous, greedy owners take advantage of their workers while reaping huge profits, I don’t see how most people wouldn’t agree with giving the county’s minimum wage workers a raise.
I’m sure I’ll be citing this book in any future blog I write regarding animal and worker’s rights. The horror of slaughterhouses and the dangers to its workers as companies sacrifice worker safety for profit.
These days it’s important to be a conscientiousness consumer.