Fast food and fun times just seem to go together, and, apparently, that’s by design (per Cheat Sheet). So, who’d have ever dreamed that more than 77,000 incidents of violence against fast food employees were reported between 2017 and 2020?
Yet that is among the findings revealed in a report released in late 2021 by the Service Employees International Union, the same union that is helping Starbucks baristas with their unionization push, per The Counter.
Of course, now that we’re thinking about it, we do recall that time back in November 2021 when a McDonald’s employee was attacked over a food shortage (a Splenda packet in this case). Then, in February 2022, a drive-thru customer shot a Wendy’s worker over an extra packet of BBQ sauce.
And while we’re on the topic, let’s not forget that the dark truth behind Popeyes’ fried chicken sandwich is that it has touched off violence at Popeyes more times than we care to count, per The Kansas City Star and Fox Business. As Teen Vogue pointed out earlier this year, too, anyone who signs on to work at a fast food restaurant must now do so knowing that they are, statistically, putting themselves at risk of violent attack.
In 2011, Slate pinned some of the blame on fast food restaurants being more vulnerable to would-be robberies. But that doesn’t account for all the violence against fast food employees perpetrated by customers. Nor does it begin to address the disturbing reason a Popeyes manager is under arrest in Georgia.
Late in the evening of Saturday, May 30, a manager of a Bainbridge, Georgia, Popeyes was arrested on charges of battery and cruelty to children. Twenty-year-old Marquez Jayshown Smith was witnessed slapping the cell phone out of the hand of a coworker following a brief verbal tirade in which Smith was seen gesticulating wildly and advancing toward the cowering coworker, a 17-year old minor, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“We are absolutely horrified, like the rest of the public,” Popeyes responded via Twitter on June 1. “The employee responsible for the assault was immediately terminated by the franchisee. We are working with local authorities and the franchisee to ensure the impacted team member has the support she needs to fully recover.”
The Tallahassee Democrat reports that a Popeyes spokesperson has also made a statement that “violence of any kind has no place in Popeyes restaurants.” The parent company of Popeyes, Restaurant Brands International, would appear to be maintaining some degree of distance from the incident, according to Newsweek, which noted that RBI was under the impression the incident had occurred in Florida.
The family of the 17-year-old employee has now retained legal counsel. “We are still collecting evidence and are making a game plan right now,” the attorney, Charles Gee, is quoted by the Tallahassee Democrat as saying. “But, it is unacceptable, in any case, for an employee to be subjected to physical and verbal abuse.”