The Woman From The Viral Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Worker Meme Shut Down The Laughs With Her Reply About Unfair Wages
Last week, Twitter exploded with the Chicken Sandwich Wars between Popeye’s newest menu addition and Chic-fil-A’s classic options. Black Twitter shared stories of long lines to get the sandwiches and flooded the social media site with news of sandwich shortages. The restaurants’ social media handles even joined in, throwing causal shade at each other. From there, it didn’t take long for the memes to start. Memes about the Chicken Sandwich Wars beef and the public’s reaction to sandwich shortages were quickly shared on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
The hype is real and it’s been huge for Popeye’s, but one meme to emerge from social media has proved to be straight-up offensive.
In a now-deleted tweet, a Twitter user shared an image of an exhausted Popeye’s employee during her break and asked the Internet to turn it into a meme.
While there has been plenty of comedic content around the Chicken Sandwich Wars, this image points out the very human aspect of this capitalistic push. While Popeye’s makes bank off of the mania surrounding their new sandwiches, their employees are facing an increase in labor without increased financial compensation.
The hourly pay rate at Popeye’s ranges, on average, from $7.29 to $12.33 an hour depending on state minimum wage. With all the free online hype that Black Twitter has given this sandwich, Popeye’s has received about $23 Million in free press. Obviously, the chicken chain has benefitted financially from this exchange but has made no move to compensate the workers who are making it possible. The unfair division of work and profit is very obvious and is nothing to joke about.
Twitter wasn’t feeling this call to meme-ify the exhausted employee pic.
Twitter user @DanaVivianWhite summed up exactly why this attempt to meme this situation is in such poor taste. As her tweet suggests, this worker likely spends a whole 8-hour shift on her feet without the benefits of vacation time or even a livable wage. The instinct to dehumanize her pain and turn it into a mock-able Internet moment is a grossly inappropriate one and it shows the lack of sensitivity that people have towards service workers and the suffering of Black women in particular.
Other users pointed out the irony of this image circulating on the Internet during Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.
The exhausted female worker meme came into being around the same time as Black Women’s Equal Pay Day — a day when we reflect on the wide wage gap that Black women face. Other than Latinas, Black women are the most unequally paid group. It takes an additional 8 months for the pay that Black women receive to equal what their male counterparts make in a year. For this meme to be introduced to the Internet on the same day as Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is not only shameful, it’s completely insensitive to the struggles of these women.
Instead of making this woman into a meme, energy should be put into helping her and treating her like a human being.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the people we see on the Internet are real and are experiencing real pain. They are entitled to compassion and respect — especially this woman. Instead of making her exhaustion and labor into a joke, we should use it as a motivator to fight for greater wages and benefits for overworked employees. This picture is not meme material but it should be shared as a reminder that these employees deserve much more than they are getting.
This woman isn’t the only one to feel the exhaustion of the demands being put on Popeye’s workers.
Service workers are some of the most disrespected employees and Popeye’s employees are getting an extra serving of abuse from frustrated customers. Abusing overworked, underpaid food workers is disgraceful. It is not their job to take the disrespect of their customers. No one is paid enough to deal with this.
These employees don’t have options. Often, they aren’t able to look for another job if they are unhappy with their current one. Workers like the exhausted woman are stuck in their situation but it is one that they don’t deserve. We don’t have to make it worse by denying their pain and turning their suffering into entertainment.
The new Popeye’s sandwich might be delicious but it’s not worth the human struggles. If the chicken chain doesn’t soon find a way to compensate their workers for their labor, they will see a backlash from employees and concerned customers and they will lose the Chicken Sandwich Wars.