In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Editorial
  • Christina Larocco

A study of food and foodways in Pennsylvania history—the subject of this issue of the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography—would hardly be complete without mentioning Wawa. In the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Balch Institute Ethnic Images in Advertising collection, I came across a curious document: an advertisement for employment with the iconic market, circa 1984–90. Featuring drawings of four figures from different backgrounds and at different stages in their lives—an African American man in a button-down shirt, sweater, and slacks holding a football; a white mother and her infant; a white surfer dude in shorts and sunglasses; and an energetic, mustachioed older white man—the advertisement touts the benefits of working for Wawa.1

Employees at Wawa, the advertisement claims, will experience unmatched autonomy, making decisions about how the store is run from day one. Wawa stores, moreover, offer their employees convenience, flexibility, and opportunities for advancement. And at whom are these opportunities aimed? "People just like you—earning extra money for those added college expenses, supplementing a family income or simply making [End Page 233] the most out of spare time."2 The designers of this advertisement assumed that people did not need these jobs to live on.

The reality of food service workers in the United States was, and is, very different. Of the 1.8 million Americans who earned at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour in 2017, many are adults, and many have children. In a 2015 study, the Economic Policy Institute concluded that of those who would be affected by a higher minimum wage, 89 percent were twenty or older, and 27.7 percent were parents (23.6 percent in Pennsylvania). Nationwide, two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are women. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia mandate a higher minimum wage than does the federal government; Pennsylvania is not one of them.3

As economists debate the wisdom of raising the minimum wage, often missing from the conversation is the fact that, at the behest of the restaurant industry, many states allow an alternative minimum wage for tipped workers; in Pennsylvania it is $2.83. In theory tips make up the difference, but poverty rates among tipped workers are much higher than among non-tipped workers. Studies also show that the tipped minimum wage perpetuates income disparities based on race and gender—unsurprising, given that tipping is rooted in the post-emancipation reluctance to pay wages to freedpeople.4

In the meantime, the Fair Workweek campaign is targeting the "just-intime" scheduling practices adopted by food and retail industries. Though employees receive their schedules a few days in advance, they are often expected to stay on call, never knowing when or how much they will work [End Page 234] in a given week. The flexibility celebrated in the Wawa advertisement, it seems, is often only for employers.5

As Danya Pilgrim reminds us in this issue, "too often, foodways scholars have not considered service within the operation of eating culture, as though food magically appears at the table with no intermediary link between the kitchen and the dining room." The articles in this issue uncover a number of connections, not only from kitchen to dining room but also from food and foodways to imperialism, international labor and human rights, and abolitionism, to name a few. I thank my guest editors, William Woys Weaver and Psyche Williams-Forson, for their help in selecting such fine scholarship. [End Page 235]

Footnotes

1. Advertisement for employment, Wawa Food Markets, n.d. [circa 1984–90], box 1, folder 20, Balch Institute Ethnic Images in Advertising collection (Collection 3238), Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, available online at https://digitallibrary.hsp.org/index.php/Detail/objects/10106.

2. Advertisement for employment, HSP.

3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, "Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2017," BLS Reports, Mar. 2018, https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/minimum-wage/2017/home.htm; Economic Policy Institute, "It's Time to Raise the Minimum Wage," Apr. 23, 2015, https://www.epi.org/files/2015/fact-sheet-minimum-wage.pdf; Economic Policy Institute, "State Tables...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2169-8546
Print ISSN
0031-4587
Pages
pp. 233-235
Launched on MUSE
2018-11-07
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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