I am a member of the working poor in this country. Do I like it? No. Like most Americans, I have dreams of having a building like Scrooge McDuck filled with money that I routinely swim in but alas, that is not the case.
Most people I have had the pleasure of meeting throughout my life are included in the same financial bracket. One mindset I’ve come across, something I’ve been guilty of myself, is the mindset that life won’t get better. That there’s no reason to do anything because no matter the amount of work you do, you won’t succeed.
Reading that, folks would easily assume that people who think that way are lazy. I can’t speak for everyone of course but the folks I know weren’t lazy when they thought this way, they became complacent. Why go above and beyond if your work is only going to benefit someone else? Just show up, punch in, do what you got to do to not get fired, and head home and drink a beer.
The problem with this mindset of course is simply that it’s a self defeating prophecy. If you think your work will get you nowhere, you will get nowhere. You may have enough pride in yourself to earn what paycheck you have but anything more effort is not worth it.
What snapped me out of this mindset is taking the time to understand the meaning of the word responsibility. The only person you are responsible to is yourself. It all came from a quote that I was told was attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. (Having said that, I have never been able to actually find proof he said it, even with this amazing tool of the internet. If anyone can point me to proof he said something like this, I will love you for life.) He stated that when you do work, do it to the best of your ability. Reason being, even if you have a bad boss, a bad job, employment that is getting you nowhere, you have a higher calling to impress.
Atheists of course may disagree with that last part but I think the sentiment is quite appropriate. Especially if you have children. If you want your kids to see the value of responsibility and to think they CAN do anything they set their mind to, you first have to live your life responsibly.
What does that mean? That means doing your absolute best at your current job. Even if you hate it. Whether your current job is just a stepping stone to future greatness or is your final career, your are building up a valuable resource called reputation. When you can walk into a future employer and show that even in jobs you absolutely hated you gave that employer your absolute best, you’re showing the employer you want to work at that you will do the same for them. A reputation is worth it’s weight in gold. So if you’re in school working at a crappy job, leaving said job without a two week notice when you graduate is not the best thing to do. Yeah, a law office may not care if you worked at McDonald’s when considering hiring you for a position at a law firm but they will care if you just left McDonald’s with no notice. (Maybe not the best example but hopefully you get my point.)
Does that mean as an employee in a crappy job you have to take abuse from the employer, whether it be intentional or someone having a bad day? Of course not. But you do the responsible thing in your response. If you don’t like your current work and your current skill set leaves little to no options available to you in terms of employment, you get off your ass and make yourself valuable to a future employer. People saying that it’s tough to advance or that they can’t move up in life aren’t really trying to find solutions. Solutions ARE out there. Take my current line of work, computer repair. While it will take a small investment to get study material and to pay for the certification tests that are required to work in that field, it certainly is much cheaper than paying for college. If I want to move on up in my career, YES, it will take a small investment in terms of money and time but the end result will more than make up for it.
The bottom line is, you and only you are responsible for your lot in life. If you don’t like your current place in life, get off your butt and work your way to something that will be more satisfying. Which brings me to the fast food strikes in New York.
When it comes to something like wages, the fact is employment is just as much a business transaction as someone coming into a restaurant and purchasing food. In the grand scheme of things, if people no longer apply for that type of work because they are finding higher paid work elsewhere, than those employers will raise their wages appropriately.
The complaints you read in the article about why these people want to unionize to me is laughable. They complain about verbal abuse and being forced to work off the clock all the time. They complain they aren’t getting enough hours or benefits. One of the people interviewed for the article above was 21 years old. While it didn’t state it in the article, I think it would be safe to say he didn’t have a college degree.
I don’t see why this is a bad thing to say but honestly, if you don’t like your current job, find another one. There IS work out there, despite the economy being in the toilet. Yeah, for folks with only high school diplomas for example, it may be harder to find work compared to someone who has more on their resume to make themselves more valuable to a potential employer. That doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to make yourself valuable. Demanding that an employer such as a fast food joint raise your wages and give you benefits when you have no real qualifications for a wage increase is ridiculous. No, they should not be making you work off the clock or verbally abusing you but nobody is forcing you to stay there. This is not Communist Russia, where you pretty much had to work where they said you had to work. Take some responsibility for your life. Go back to school and join a profession that will give you what you want.
I am not a fan of unions. Do I think they should be done away with? Of course not. But especially in situations like this, I see them causing more harm than good. Fast food restaurants are considered low paying jobs for a reason. It doesn’t take much to do the work. That doesn’t mean the people who work there aren’t valuable in their own way but, if the fast food restaurants could afford it and if the machinery existed, they would easily install machines that would do all the work of creating the meals their employees currently make. Because the work involved is not that difficult, the pay IS low for these jobs. They also don’t need to have a work force working over 40 hours a week either. The employees that think this strike will somehow benefit them will sadly find themselves unemployed because the fact is, the restaurants could have the spots filled and trained up with new employees within a weeks time, if that.
As a wage earner anywhere, you can’t sit back and be comfortable with how life is. If you have any integrity, you just can’t. It is the responsibility of each person to scratch and claw their way to a lifestyle that is comfortable for them. It is not the responsibility of the employer to do that for you. This strike in New York is a joke. Frankly, if you don’t like working someplace, find something else. It’s as simple as that really.
- Is It Time for a New Job? Five Signs (lexingtonlaw.com)
- NYC fast-food workers demand better pay (nbcnews.com)
- New York fast food workers strike over low wages (guardian.co.uk)
- In rare strike, NYC fast-food workers walk out (salon.com)
- McJobs Should Pay, Too: It’s Time for Fast-Food Workers To Get Living Wages (theatlantic.com)
- 10 Things The Fast Food Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know (huffingtonpost.com)
- Fast-Food Workers in New York City Rally for Higher Wages (nytimes.com)
- New York Fast Food Employees Strike, Want Higher Pay (newsy.com)
- New York’s fast food workers strike. Why now? (tv.msnbc.com)
- New York Is Site of Nation’s Biggest Drive to Unionize Fast-Food Workers (nytimes.com)