Excuse the Rant

I woke up this morning to an email from a friend that the front page of our local newspaper was splashed with news of a single mom of 4 children being fired for giving a baby a timbit. For the Americans out there, a timbit is merely a donut hole that costs a whole 16 cents. I was elated that Tim Hortons was being called out for their unethical human resources practices. I was unfortunate enough to work at several, all owned by the same owner, and in my experience, this was nothing. I worked like a dog for six years without a sick day or vacation day. 44 hours a day, five days a week for six years. At any other job, this would seem tremendous. Do you want to know the pay-off? J and I lived hand to mouth. We would argue whether we would spend our last $2 until pay day on bread or a litre of milk. We could not afford a car or a house of our own. I rode a bike to work across the city for at least six months of the year when there wasn't snow on the ground. We walked everywhere. El was just a little tot, but she had the most muscley slim little legs for her age. And I was miserable. We were miserable. We couldn't get ahead no matter what. And we tried. I get a huge lump in my throat just thinking about it.

I knew everything about working at Tim's. I started out in customer service during the week and cake decorating on the weekends, and I eventually was able to decorate cakes full-time. And then I took over the inventory counting and all the ordering. Then I was supervising and putting together the bank deposits. I became an assistant manager, and soon I was interviewing and hiring and training. If the baker called in sick, I made do with what I was able to do. I was put on salary, and I began to work over 60 hours a week for no more money than before. The raises I did get were a quarter here, a nickel there. I hit the $10/hour mark after five years. Whoopee! If you divided that by the hours I put in then it was really less than the student working at the counter. I can't even begin to describe the stress that came with this job.

One day I was working the drive-thru window all by myself because we were short staff as always, and another manager walked up to me and asked me point blank if I hated her. I noted that it was not a good time to talk, but added that "Yes, indeed, I did hate her." You have to understand that these fast-food jobs do something to you mentally and physically. There was no respect and after six years of trying to climb the ladder, I had finally realized that there was nothing at the top. I was still some dumb-ass behind the counter that people would yell at if there wasn't a flippin' chocolate-glazed donut on the shelf at 9:30 on a Saturday morning. I had did everything right and nice, and I was a good little worker, but I had nothing. And I had become ugly and mean and spiteful. I couldn't put on a lousy smile for my own five-year old. I say this all the time, but you have to believe me - if someone had given me a gun, I would have started shooting my co-workers, customers, everyone in my sight. Of course, I put up with all of it because I had a small child who depended on me to feed her and cloth her and keep a roof over her head. And she's absolutely brilliant, but I knew that the last thing I wanted her to remember was that I had been a schmuck being kicked around like dirt. So the manager told a higher manager that if she didn't get rid of me, she would leave. Without a single offence in my personnel file, I was given six weeks notice - one for every year I had served, but only because this is the bare minimum of our provincial employment standards. The real kick in the butt was that I was ordered to work the next six weeks regardless. Any misconduct in the slightest would have me fired immediately without severance. Severance that I had to work off. I couldn't even look for another job because I would be working.

Needless to say, today I don't step into a Tim Hortons lightly. It makes me sad to think of all the other mothers working their behinds off to live beneath the poverty level. And don't get me wrong - only positive things came out of my own dismissal. I think often about sending that manager a thank-you note. I went to college and graduated at the top of my class on the President's Honour Roll. I got a truly meaningful job at an excellent organization complete with benefits, and I am ashamed to admit that I work with a third of the effort and energy for three times the pay and benefits above that . I will soon have four weeks of vacation, and when I or one of the girls is sick, I call in. I am surrounded by the most wonderful people, and I enjoy myself - most of the time. We have a car. We own a house. We added a second child into the mix. And I smile. And I appreciate all of it more because of Tim Hortons. But a front page smear on them makes me feel validated. I want to give that girl the biggest hug for being brave enough to out them. I want to shake her hand and tell her how proud I am. Today, she is my hero. I hope that people see the truth. I hope that more people slaving away behind those counters can stand up and see that they are better than they think they are.

Sadly I checked the paper once again when I got home from work today, and the Tim Hortons corporation has offered her a job back - in another store in an effort to make them look good and the monkey managers bad. Just as she was to make her escape, they have lured her back in to slowly kill what's left of her.

That's just what has been on my mind today. I think I'll go finish a sock, bake my third batch of oatmeal raisin cookies this week, and hug the girls a little tighter and whisper in their ears how the sky is the limit and to settle for nothing less.


Hall in the Kitchen said...

I remember those days...when you worked there..tough times.

Very well written Nadine!

knitty_kat said...

You know what? You were worried that the negativity of this wasn't appropriate, but this IS a fabulous post. I'm sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it!

Don't ever give up on yourself. You are an amazing person that has obviously put up with a great deal. And you now are doing much better for it.


Montreal Mama said...

I saw the Tim's story on the news here. Crazy!! I can't believe it's "close to home" for you! I couldnt believe that news story when I heard it. I had to rewind my tivo!

Katherine said...

(I'm getting all caught up).

Oh my goodness. I had no idea. I'm done with them then.

You wrote that so beautifully. And I'm so glad you spoke up that day. {{hug}}