Posts Tagged ‘We Built It’

You didn’t build your business.

I did.

My friends, siblings, neighbors and co-workers did.

My parents and grandparents built your business.

You may have provided the vision that sparked it. More likely you inherited the business, or at least the money to start it, from your parents. But let’s assume you took the initiative to start it and that you provided the initial seed money one way or another and the capital needed to keep the doors open when times were tough and the customers weren’t coming through the door. You may even have worked ungodly hours over the years to ensure the business’s success.

But you didn’t build it.

Not by yourself.

I’d bet my life’s history that I was there beside you, working just as hard, and much of the time working much harder than you were working to build your business.

I worked hours of overtime without pay. Maybe you didn’t notice I was there finishing that report you needed tomorrow as you were heading out for an evening of celebrating your company’s successful year.   I gave up time with my children – those moments watching them grow up – moments that I can never recover. I invested in your company on the promise that we were building something together. I gave up days off and vacations. I gave up pay increases. I gave up my health, my youth and my safety on the promise of a shared future that never happened.

My story is not singular. Millions of people can share the same story.

My mother worked over 30 years for the same employer. Because she was “salaried” she never earned minimum wage and her employer could require her to work more than 40 hours a week. When she started working for them, it was a simple mom and pop shop but with her help – and the help of several other employees – mom and pop built that store into two. She had to beg for raises even though she was one of (usually “the”) top sales performers. Over the years, through the hard work and dedication of many, including me, those two stores grew to three then four, then more. My mother was passed over for promotion to manager or assistant manager each time, even though she was the most qualified for the position. Still, she functioned as a manager and never complained. The owners knew they could rely upon her to make certain that their business would thrive any time they were absent, including when they were on vacation, a luxury she never had.

National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine, ca. 1912 - ca. 1912

Group of girl workers at the gate of the American Tobacco Co. Young girls obviously under 14 years of age, who work about 10 hours every day except Saturday. Wilmington, Del., 05/1910

My mother dreamt of owning her own business, a restaurant. That never happened. It’s difficult to save for your dreams when you’re raising a family of seven children and your family’s combined income is, well, low. One day, as she was getting ready for work she had a stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side. Her career was over, and the company that she helped build was nowhere to be found. She had no health insurance and no pension. Thank G-d there was a “social safety net,” the same one the Republicans who think they build things want to destroy.

We, the people who worked for you, put in the hard labor that allowed you to amass the wealth that you’re now hoarding and refusing to reinvest because you don’t like us and you don’t like the President. You talk to us about moving up the rungs of the ladder but after we helped you build yours you ripped the ladder out from under us. There is no ladder.

Were we angry that you were getting wealthy? We knew that someday we would be rewarded for our loyalty, even if it was only with a gold watch. We expected, at the very least, job security. We didn’t have to envy you because we had hope.

Then you started sending our jobs overseas; “off-shoring”, which was good for your bottom line but that left those of us who helped you build your company with fewer jobs. You started paying us less and working us longer hours. Those of us who had pensions and healthcare were stripped of them.

Those jobs we helped you create, those industries we built are gone. The jobs we thought we’d work at until we retired are gone. There are no new jobs because it is not profitable for you to create them. You used us until you no longer needed us and now, you want to call us lazy. You say “If you want it and you work hard” you too can have it. You too can become wealthy. You too can build it.

That is a gross simplification. That is simply gross.

The truth is we built it together.

And we deserve better from you.

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