Column, 291 words

Step Away from That Desk

Don't let your boss steal your lunch break.

Jim Hightower

Do you eat lunch at your desk? Alone? Continuing to work as you chew?

Welcome to the new wondrous world of work in which employees feel intense pressure from bosses to labor right through lunch. In a survey, 62 percent of people with desk jobs said they grab a snack and keep working during lunch, rather than taking a pause to step outside, clear their heads, socialize with co-workers, and recharge.

By creating a nose-to-the-grindstone climate, companies are able to extract an extra hour of work — unpaid — from every cube captive who foregoes taking that noontime pause. This is yet another product of the corporate autocracy’s tightening grip over a union-free workplace. It’s not exactly a morale-builder, for it increases both stress and resentment.

So guess who’s doing something about the corporate usurpation of lunch? Corporations! Not by empowering workers, of course, but by exploiting their resentment. McDonald’s, a notorious union buster in its own workplaces, recently launched a perverse, workers-of-the-world-unite advertising campaign under the slogan, “It’s your lunch. Take it.”



By “take it,” McD’s is saying that distressed desk jockeys should “overthrow the working lunch” by darting out for a calorie-packed Third Pounder Deluxe burger at McDonald’s. Likewise, KFC and Applebee’s have concocted crass PR pitches to divert legitimate worker anger into lunch consumerism in their chain store eateries.

The corporate theft of the lunch hour is not some hokey ad gimmick — it’s a real assault on the basic ethic of workplace fairness. For information and action check out a “Dear Abby”-style column written by AFL-CIO’s organizing director, Dave Wehde. Called “Dear David,” the weekly column addresses problems that people are having in their workplaces. Read it at

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

  • Boris Dirnbach

    Investment company Vanguard Group (outside Philly) used to (and maybe still does) offer free lunch boxes for workers who stay at their desk during lunch. So the workers get to eat for free, but they don’t leave the office or even their computers and phones. Good deal for the company, they spend a few bucks and get another hour of labor.

  • Georgann Putintsev

    I’m told by my boss to Take my lunch, but a short time later … I’m pinged to get such & such done within my Lunch Time. Being told that such & such should only take 15 minutes to do, when in reality it takes an hour. Samething happens for Doctor’s appointments. My daily TO DO list is constantly changing to make room for the higher request or question you have to research. Some days, I’m lucky to get 2 things done that were orginally on my Top 10 list. So Added Stress about keeping your Job, keeping your Boss happy, all leads to more Weight gain. We’ve become DESK Potatoes while being the highest Producers in the World.