RON SCHALOW — In Defense Of The Mythical Burger Flipper

Mop a mile in my skilled shoes.

I’ve wet mopped (soaked and soapy) a distance equal to the miles between Regina, Sask., and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, 14 miles wide, and then went back over it with a dry mop to remove the soapy dirty water and leave the floor free of footprints. It could take two passes. Craftsmanship and attention to detail. Close to cross-training for the core.

That was way it was done in the last century, during the age of Aquarius. Research tells me that the mopping process has changed little in the information age. Mop buckets haven’t evolved. Mop heads were always pretty advanced.

That’s just an example of the labor involved, when working in a restaurant, fast-food or otherwise. And mopping isn’t the half of it.

The stereotype used by those who don’t like the riff-raff making poverty level money is that of the easy living “burger flipper,” which is malarkey.

Perhaps there is a person somewhere, flipping hamburgers for eight hours straight, which would be boring and tedious, and then just clocking out, but I doubt it. Maybe, but that wouldn’t apply to the other near 100 percent who work hard, performing many tasks.

And to those who say, “Minimum wage jobs aren’t meant to be a career. They are there to give teens work experience.” That was never true, and even less so, now. Adults were always needed to fill daytime shifts during the school year. Currently with the tight labor market, some folks no longer in schoolNEED to take the work they can find.

Work is work. It’s worth what it’s worth. Age is irrelevant

“Then, they should just get educated and better their situation.” Sure. It’s that simple. Grown-ups have obligations, and not everyone has the resources.

As for providing experience, restaurant owners don’t give a rip about the future. They function to make money. That was always the case, so knock it off with the false talking point. There is no preparing the youngun, for the advancement of society. An employee is lucky to get trained properly. It’s a “next shift” orientated environment.


I intend to rebut the “burger flipper” canard, which follows any call for a raise in minimum wage, but we have new developments. There’s a petition out there for a $15 per hour minimum. That number is another story.

Then, the Fargo Forum felt the need to chime in with some nonsense, and I am forced to swerve a bit.

“Many low-skill service jobs, including motel workers and fast-food employees, earn around $10 an hour, for instance. As Flippy shows, unskilled workers are the most likely to be hurt by a minimum wage. If the proposal makes it to the November ballot, North Dakota voters should reject the nicely named but poorly conceived Fair Wage Act.” —  Forum management and the Editorial Board

Then, a couple of North Dakota Republican lawmakers shared the editorial on their Facebook pages. Rep. Shannon Roers Jones was first and then Rick Becker (he’s a representative) from Bismarck joined in. The free market solves all, you know. I wrote about Becker’s Bastiat Caucus several weeks ago, which makes the regular Republicans look like the Che Guevara Caucus.

Becker did not find the column amusing, or funny, in the least. He fancies himself an intellectual, so his rejoinder was scathing, in his mind. I found it bland. I have found that many conservatives don’t have a well-oiled sense of humor, but Rick could be right. I’ll live. My grandkids don’t think I’m funny, either.

I made the following comment on both pages. I thought it was fairly innocuous.

“Restaurant workers are quite skilled,” I typed. I was quite sincere.

Then, the dustup began. Below is an annotated rendition.

I moved the melee to my page, and others jumped in

“Having worked in numerous restaurants in Bismarck and Grand Forks, I know exactly how hard it is. It is extremely hard. I also own a restaurant now, and know how hard it is. I never said, nor implied, that there is no skill involved. Ron is intentionally misrepresenting things, as usual, in order to bolster interest in his posts,” said Becker.

My retort: “No, sir, you said a degree was the decider. If that’s your attitude, I sure don’t care, but I’m allowed to disagree. Nobody will ever be as smart as you …”

“BTW — stop with the douchery. You know full well that “unskilled” is most commonly used (connotation compared to denotation) to indicate that a person does not have extensive advanced education such as a technical school or college. Clearly a culinary-trained chef is an exception to this.

Formulate a big-boy argument against the opinion, rather than intentionally misapply your offense at a specific word.” —  Rick Becker for North Dakota

So, he doesn’t like me, and doesn’t have any respect for his elder. As to all of the accusations, he is wrong on every count. He’s a politician.

And one of the points of the editorial, besides the “unskilled” crack which could be applied to tons of professions, according to Becker, was the threat of automation. Don’t ask for a raise, or the boss might bring in Flippy. Such BS. Computers and advances in technology have touched all sectors, but Flippy won’t be flipping anything for a long time, if ever, at your local burger joint.

The doctor from Bismarck is not discouraged from making more money by the Fargo Forum, due to many technological advancements in medicine, and more to come.

Furthermore; an organization like Burger King doesn’t flip burgers. Never have. No one ever panicked, or asked for a reduction in pay because of a conveyor moving over fire.


When Williston, N.D., was full of oil workers, the McDonald’s, due to necessity, was paying $15 per hour to start. The price of the Big Mac remained the same. I know because I called. This notion some folks have that a nickel raise for the lowest paid in our society, means that all prices will jump is simply wrong. It doesn’t work that way. Some places have a sales volume great enough to make labor costs look nominal compared to other expenses. Nobody is hurting themselves by making more money. That’s silly.

Nobody else in this country, in any other income stratus, is expected to be responsible for possible inflation.

Adults had careers that supported a family. In retail, at stores like Sears, Kinney’s Shoes and other stores that made up the first indoor mall in Minot. That was 1964. The starting wage at Sears, as of five years ago, was $8 an hour. That amount doesn’t accomplish much. Times change.

Back in the day, an assistant manager at many restaurants could make a good living. Unfortunately, in this age, owners often put an employee on a salary, slap a title on them and then work them into the dirt, since there is no overtime pay, when a person is paid set wages. Seventy to 80 hours a week aren’t uncommon.

It’s a harder job now, since most restaurants insist on having a menu with 800 items. Memorize it. You start tomorrow.

In 1973, we had nine options. Steaks, a burger, a chicken dinner, a fish option and a child’s portion. Every weekday lunch, and all day Tuesday, a diner could get a 6-ounce ribeye, with a baked Red River Valley red, a salad and Texas toast, for 99 cents.

I started out as a busboy. We carried tubs, with three slots for silverware containers, and were under a lot of pressure, to keep up with traffic. Since trays were used, we would use those to backstop all of the dishware and pile the works up to the eyeballs. At least my eyeballs. I hadn’t grown that last foot, yet.

A busboy needed to be strong and fast. Fill a tub, get it back to the dishwasher, grab a clean tub and get the hell back out there. Tabletops, booths and chairs had to be clean and dry. No garbage on the floor. I was skilled.

Working in kitchen requires a quick mind. fast hands and endurance. The same could be said for the waitstaff. Hollering is going happen between these two groups, and the word unflappable is used for those who can stay calm during these exchanges and the strain of memorization, organization and a mind being torn in 12 directions. Many are very skilled. The others leave and wait for their check in the mail.

Perkins, Village Inn, Doolittles and the rest of the sit-downs. Subway, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen and the others with a drive-through, and inside customers stand in a line. Skilled. The whole lot. Some may have degrees. I don’t know.

A good dishwasher has to be very skilled. A dishwasher working at peak times, a minute from disaster, is a ballet. I could do it. I was skilled.

I bussed and washed for $1.60 per hour. I’m not bragging or complaining. Gasoline was cheap, which was helpful, since I owned a German car made by Panzer. It was stout but thirsty. I could afford college — and some beer. When I was moved up to fry cook, my pay was raised to $1.65, and I moved on up to the east side. Skillfully so.

Clean a grease trap. Yes, it’s a thing.

Imagine the worst for a bathroom. Clean it.

Anyone who can work with the public without being sedated is very talented and should receive combat pay. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might be one of the spirit breakers.

Carry out a 50-gallon garbage container full of wet sloppy plate scrapings and lift it high enough to get the contents into the dumpster when you’re 90 pounds. Pick up any crud that ended up on the ground. Repeat.

Get on your hands and knees to sweep under EVERYTHING before mopping. There is a lot of “under” in food places. These chores have to be done multiple times per day.

There is a lot of grease collected by filters before the smoke from fryers, grills, ovens, broasters, rotisseries, toasters and broilers is sucked outside. These must be cleaned every day. Everything does.

I could on, but there’s no need. These people have been labeled unskilled to keep wages down. Why else? Anyone who has been there knows that food service is hard work, that takes skill.

And the same goes for all of the jobs that have been labeled as “unskilled” by a pompous someone who knows nothing of reality.

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