In my teens I’d never delivered the paper, flipped a burger, or worked at Walmart. But I get why folks doing these jobs today are mad. The grievances of McDonald’s and Walmart employees reflect the struggle of all workers; they’re striking because they can’t make ends for their families with one — even two — full-time incomes at $8 an hour. It’s time we convince CEO’s that shared prosperity is a good thing. Higher wages going back into the economy are gifts that keep on giving.
A quarter century ago, I was already getting glimpses of the wage inequality that would turn into a huge chasm between the haves and have nots. As a youngster I learned a few lessons from the corporate world. Simply put, the bottom line is the lining for pockets of the few, not the many. This helps to explain the pent up anger that ordinary workers are feeling toward their billionaire bosses.
After finishing high school in San Jose, CA, I temped at EG&G Reticon, whose imaging devices go back to the Manhattan Project. On the first day, the woman in the neighboring office greeted me with, “It’s the Asian invasion.” Not the warmest welcome, but she was a prophet of things to come. What she really should have said was: “It’s the coming Age of Globalization.” In 1986, this division of EG&G was about to implode. This co-worker got pink slipped in the hallway one Friday, after 13 years with the company. In spite of her Asia-phobia, I was actually sorry to see her go. There was no exit interview, nor job counseling, not even a simple good-bye. Corporate culture didn’t leave much room for human feelings and considerations, which we call ren xing in my native language of Mandarin. The manager had told me earlier, “This company is going to hell.”
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