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Its been less than a week since Popeyeschicken sandwich took over Twitter and won the#ChickenSandwichwith Chick-fil-A. But a recent thread documenting the thoughts of a grieving friend after the untimely death of a Starbucks worker is casting a new light on the conversation around fast-food chains and the employees who keep them running.
Food writer Allison Robicelli shared the thread on Saturday about her friend James Farmer who died at 22 due to a kidney failure.A GoFundMe set up for his funeral costs on Aug. 12 said he died on Aug. 11. According to Robicelli, Farmer would skip his dialysis treatment as he was an hourly wage worker and couldnt afford to take off work hours.
The enormity of these things really doesnt hit you until you see a brilliant, funny, caring and very much loved 22 year old man lying in a his casket.
— Allison Robicelli (@robicellis) August 24, 2019
This was James. The people who serve you coffee and sandwiches, the people who barely get by because a living wage isnt in the best interest of shareholders, the people who so many believe dont deserve to be paid fairly: they are people. They are loved. They deserve better. pic.twitter.com/nxrzd4J7mg
— Allison Robicelli (@robicellis) August 24, 2019
The people who serve you coffee and sandwiches, the people who barely get by because a living wage isnt in the best interest of shareholders, the people who so many believe dont deserve to be paid fairly: they are people, Robicelli wrote.
Robicelli explained that Farmer had health insurance but was afraid of taking off work and losing hourly pay.
James was worried about money, she wrote. He thought if he took a day off for dialysis, hed continue to have less hours on every weekly schedule.
James was worried about money. He was worried that if he took time off hed be replaced, because thats a legitimate fear all hourly workers live with. He thought if he took a day off for dialysis, hed continue to have less hours on every weekly schedule.
— Allison Robicelli (@robicellis) August 25, 2019
Another friend of Farmers told the Daily Dot, who asked to remain anonymous to comply with her employers policies about speaking to the media, added that he was burdened with heavy health insurance copays and costs due to his conditions.
Robicelli also said Farmer died about two weeks ago, and his family had to raise funds during this time for his funeral. This is the reality of those who work hourly jobs on Baltimores east side, she wrote.
He was a valued member of our team, impacted every member of our staff and every customer he came in contact with,read the description on the GoFundMe page set up by Smith and Charnette Burris. He passionately stood up for LGBTQIA rights, fashion, and good music. He was a dedicated worker and friend. This loss is immeasurable and we want to support his family in whatever way we can.
The fundraiser also raised more than $7,700, exceeding its goal of $7,500. There were a total of 186 donations, and a majority of the donations were made in the past two days.
Thank you for every donation, share, and kind word,Smith wrote in an update on Sunday. James family, friends, and coworkers are humbled by the generosity of strangers.
Robicelli isnt the first to use the #ChickenSandwich debate to scrutinize the layers of violations that are involved in the $3.99 sandwich. A recent Eater interview examined the Popeyes hype on Twitter, applying questions on everything from ICE raids at poultry farms to Popeyes wages rendering its own employees homeless.
Theres real, active harm being done by fast-food companies on every level of the food system from individual to global, Evan Hanczor, chef of Egg Restaurant that boasts its treatment of its employees and farmers, told Eater.
It doesnt give me much confidence about the ingredient quality, Hanczor said of the price of Popeyes sandwich. The price doesnt seem to suggest that they could possibly be sourcing chicken you could consider remotely humanely raised.
On Twitter, Robicellis thread resonated with many who shared their concern and support for Farmer, while some called for accessible dialysis care.
This is a tragedy, and I extend my thoughts to you, his family and those who loved him/ will miss him. What could have been done/ happened to prevent this loss? What is it??? Let's send it up the flag pole and see who salutes.
— Steven Mincheff (@SMincheff) August 24, 2019
This is why we need to get more ppl on home dialysis! In-center takes away your oppty to choose your own schedule around work, & home D keeps you healthier. Im truly sorry for loss of yr friend & grieve w/you. Tragic loss. Seen it too often.
— Wannabe Race Traitor (@KitsapRiver) August 25, 2019
Agree but this case was more about the way our system treats workers. He had insurance but as an hourly worker he couldn't take the time (many hours/day, 3 days/week). Dialysis centers could do more to provide care for workers like this young man.
— True Blue Patriot (@ketagoesglobal) August 25, 2019
It's sad to think that Star Bu cks, who claims they are compassionate, would put their workers in such a difficult position as to choose taking time off for legit life or death medical reasons and losing critical pay and having enough for a roof over their head & just enough food
— Miss Melody (@Risque_Melody) August 25, 2019
Its unclear if Starbucks has any benefits for its workers undergoing extensive treatments such as dialysis and what kind of leave it warrants to its workers for such issues. The Daily Dot has reached out to Starbucks for comments and will update if the company responds.