Worker Taken To Hospital After Having To Work 17-Hour Shifts Back To Back With No Breaks

The striking Waffle House Worker ended up with a life-threatening illness because she didn't have time to go to the bathroom while at work.

striking waffle house worker who was forced to work 17-hour shifts with no breaks @raiseupthesouth / TikTok

A young server is going viral after revealing the harrowing drama that ensued due to the understaffing problems at the Waffle House location where she works. 

At a union rally, Summer Schoolmeester-Cochran shared how the working conditions at her Columbia, South Carolina Waffle House left her so overworked she ended up in the hospital.

A striking Waffle House worker ended up hospitalized after working back-to-back 17-hour shifts with no breaks.

The restaurant industry is still firmly in the grips of a widespread staffing shortage that began with the COVID-19 pandemic and has never fully rectified itself.


A full 60% of restaurants are still understaffed, and the problem persists across the industry, from upscale dining right down through fast-food. And experts say it ultimately comes down to one thing: scores of restaurant workers have moved on to better jobs, and they aren't coming back.

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Waffle House is apparently no exception, and those still working at locations in Columbia have been bearing the brunt of the problem.


At a rally for the Union of Southern Service Workers, Schoolmeester-Cochran shared how the understaffing issue left her in what sounds like a life-threatening situation. The union shared her story on its TikTok page, @raiseupthesouth, as seen below.



"I was working 17-hour shifts back-to-back," Schoolmeester-Cochran said at the rally. "I ended up with a kidney infection and it was so serious to the point that I ended up on morphine."

The reason Schoolmeester-Cochran ended up so seriously ill, she said, is because she "was not given the proper time to use a restroom or be able to go to get something to eat" while she was being so severely overworked


This is all, she said, because Waffle House continuously understaffed the restaurant, a situation her coworkers who didn't work the night shift didn't have to deal with. "Most nights I would be the only server while other shifts are having tow to five servers, left to do everything by myself," she said. "This is not safe nor healthy for me or Waffle House."

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Striking Waffle House workers in South Carolina are alleging low pay and appalling working conditions like those that led to Schoolmeester-Cochran's illness.

According to Nation's Restaurant News, a foodservice-industry trade publication, striking Waffle House workers in Columbia, South Carolina delivered a petition to management demanding better pay, more fairness in scheduling procedures and improved workplace safety.

They say their concerns were not properly addressed by their managers, and the strike ensued three days later. "We are working for scraps and pennies," Naomi Harris, another striking Waffle House worker, told a local newspaper. "We can barely buy the basic necessities that we need to live off of, we can barely take care of ourselves."


And while she may be the only one who ended up hospitalized by her Waffle House job, Schoolmeester-Cochran was far from the only person with a harrowing story. One untipped employee detailed how after 24 years working at her Waffle House location she was making only $16 per hour.

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Other employees have shared shocking stories of abuse by customers at their Waffle House locations, including having things like sugar and salt shakers thrown at them by patrons, while others have accused Waffle House of wage theft, saying the company deducts employee meals from their checks whether they eat them or not. 


Meanwhile, the employees are working in a city with one of the highest crime rates in America, a problem with which they have come face to face, including the worker who is only making $16 an hour after 24 years — she said her tenure has included two robberies and being held at gunpoint.

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The chain's corporate leadership has chosen not to address any striking Waffle House workers' claims in any way. 

In a statement to Nation's Restaurant News, Waffle House's VP of Public Relations, Njeri Boss, said the company had no intention of addressing workers' allegations in any public way, and summarily denied their accusations.

"Waffle House is proud of its long record of effectively addressing any concerns our Associates report to us," Boss's statement read. "We intend to do that directly with our Associates."


Boss's take, of course, differs from the story told by employees, who say it was precisely the company's unwillingness to address their concerns that led to the strike. (And as anyone who took PR 101 in college will tell you, this is also shockingly incompetent public relations work, but that's a whole other article.)

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For their part, employees say they will be undeterred by Waffle House's attempts to silence or ignore them. As another striking Waffle House worker said at the rally, "Nobody’s scared, we’re ready. We are going to keep fighting by any means necessary."


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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.