Maria Fernandes died for your Dunkin’ Donuts

THE DEATH OF MARIA Fernandes still haunts me. You might remember her; she is the 32-year-old New Jersey woman who died in late August in her car while she was taking a nap between two of her three jobs.
The story of her death was reported last week in The New York Times.
Fernandes napped in her car between her jobs at three different Dunkin’ Donuts because she didn’t have the time to go home to sleep. She died from inhaling gasoline fumes, leaving her young daughter behind.
Apparently, a gasoline can she kept in the back of her SUV spilled, filling the running car with fumes as she slept. She kept the gasoline can in her car because she slept with the car’s engine running and wanted to make sure she always had enough gasoline to get to her next job.
Dunkin’ Donuts told The Times that Fernandes was making a little more than minimum wage but wouldn’t disclose her salary.
I can’t imagine what it’s like, holding down three jobs. I briefly worked two full-time jobs one summer in California when I was in college, at a garlic/onion packing plant during the day and at a frozen fruit plant at night, but it was probably for no longer than a couple of weeks, and both were union jobs, paying considerably more than minimum wage. I was staying with my sister and brother-in-law, rent free, and I had no one depending on me, so I could have quite one of the jobs anytime I wanted to.
Maria Fernandes didn’t have that freedom. She had her daughter to feed, clothe and shelter, and she was behind on her rent.
I can’t help wondering how many other Maria Fernandeses are out there. Too many, no doubt.
The people who run the Dunkin’ Donuts and other fast-food joints want us to believe that the only people who work in their establishments are high school students and other teen-agers, people who don’t have families to support and therefore are OK earning minimum wage.
Maria Fernandes’ story tells us that those are dirty rotten lies. But, of course, we didn’t need her to die to know that: those of us have been to those places and seen who works there know that. We’d just rather not do anything about it.

About juanzqui7

Former Texas reporter, columnist and editorial writer.
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One Response to Maria Fernandes died for your Dunkin’ Donuts

  1. Ann Chapman says:

    Thank you for writing this. It needs to be widely circulated.

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