It seems that unionizing and striking is all the rage these days. Hostess and Walmart workers have dominated the news filing grievances about low wages and lost benefits. My question is just how much sympathy do these employees deserve?

My first job was at McDonald's. I started in 1988 at $3.35 an hour, which gradually increased with periodic raises and changes in the minimum wage. I continued to work in fast food for several years: McDonald's, Dairy Queen, Arby's. I was a crew member, trainer, and manager. By the time I left the industry for good, I was earning a measly $5.25 an hour with no benefits (no healthcare or retirement, no paid sick days or vacation, lousy hours). 

I had a choice. I could either continue in low-skill, low-wage jobs, or I could improve myself and my life. I can clearly remember deciding to improve my life. But here is the kicker, when I made that decision, I had to actually do something about it. Opportunity didn't fall into my lap. Nobody came knocking on my door. Nobody made the phone calls, filled out the applications, or gathered the information for me. I had to take the initiative to go back to school. I had to attend classes, study hard, and sacrifice important time with my young son. I had to earn the degree, which I did successfully, and find a job. 

So here is what I don't get. If Walmart workers are so irritated with their low wages and crappy hours, then why don't they look to improving their lives? Obviously, it does not require much skill to work a cash register or stock shelves. I know because I did it. There are options: 1) find another, better-paying job. 2) improve one's skill-set. It's pretty simple actually. Forget the fact that these are LOW-SKILL jobs. Forget the fact that the teacher who makes around $25 per hour went to college for four years, at least. Forget the fact that the plumber or electrician making $35 per hour has a very specific skill and training. Wages and benefits are and should be commiserate with the experience, knowledge, and level of schooling required to get there.  Instead, these striking workers (not all Walmart employees by any means) have decided that since the owner and founder/ the CEO's/ the high management....since they all make so much money, the low-skill, low wage employees should receive a portion of that. No, they deserve it. It is rightfully theirs. AND the saddest part is that they believe the unions will make it all magically happen. 

Today's unions are no better than the big corporations and political machines. Once upon a time they served an important purpose. Now they have grown into behemoth monsters that suck in money and pretend to represent the worker. Before you lament the wonderful things they do, ask yourself a few questions. Ever wonder how much the heads of some of these unions earn each year? Ever wonder which circles they run in? Sure they have the low-wage, low-skill Walmart worker's best interest at heart. Just keep believing that.

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    Who am I? Just an average woman living an average life. There are many labels I would use to define myself: mom, wife, daughter, student, educator, American, etc. I have no professional experience nor am I claiming to be a writer. Sometimes I am brushing up on some skills I will need when I return to academia, and sometimes I am just sharing or venting.  


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