Everyone who quit? I’m at work.

Porsha Sharon, 28, still thinks of the explosions she witnessed from customers she served at Buddy’s Pizza in Troy, Michigan last year. A woman walked into the restaurant and simply ordered a pizza, to which Ms Sharon replied, pointing to the extensive menu: what kind?

“Didn’t you hear what I said?” the customer replied, according to Ms. Sharon’s recollection. “Are you dull?”

Other clients mocked Ms. Sharon for wearing a mask. The eight-hour shifts ended with a burning pain in her swollen feet. In March, she received an offer to start working as an administrative assistant in a law firm, a job she did on a temporary basis in college, and last month she left the pizzeria.

“The last generation, they were unhappy in their jobs, but they stayed because that was what they should have done,” Ms. Sharon said. “We’re not like that, and I love it for us. We’re like, ‘This job is overloading me with work, I’m getting sick because my body is shutting down and I’m over it.’ “

Katy Dean, chief operating officer of Buddy’s Pizza, a Michigan restaurant chain, said abusive patrons are a “difficult component” of the current restaurant climate. “If a guest refuses to calm down and treat our staff with respect, we authorize our managers to ask that guest to leave the restaurant,” Ms. Dean said.

This working moment has been branded as anti-ambition. But for many workers, frustration has given way to an explosion of ambitious demands for better jobs: promotions, industry changes, stable hours, sick leave, bereavement leave, maternity leave, retirement plans, safety protections, holidays. “Nobody wants to work anymore”, read a sign outside McDonald’s in a viral TikTok. To which former Labor Secretary Robert Reich he answered: “Nobody wants to be exploited anymore.”

Last year, when millions of people said “I quit,” the showdown went far beyond the confines of the corporations and industries at the center. White-collar workers weren’t quitting jobs at the same rate as hospitality and retailers. But they have made bold demands on their employers all the same, acknowledging that unemployment is low and competition for talent is fierce.