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Dues? Millennials Don’t Have To Pay No Stinkin’ Dues!

Dues? Millennials Don’t Have To Pay No Stinkin’ Dues!
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BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

Boy, do I feel silly. Who knew that working at an entry-level job that is beneath one with a college degree merited outrage? Recently, this was evidenced by Talia Jane. The 25-year-old Yelp employee wrote an open letter to the company’s CEO about how the pittance he paid her couldn’t sustain her San Francisco lifestyle. The missive went viral, with many of the responses not going in her favor, and she was fired.

Even though Ms. Jane lost her job, she did become the center of an Internet debate, bringing attention to how recent college grads aren’t getting a fair shake in the workplace.

Coming to their defense in an article in the New York Post, was a movement called Why Millennials Matter. (Yes, this is a thing.) All I can say is where was this group in the ‘80s when, sheepskin in hand, I was looking for my first job in advertising?

When I started working, I had suffered the usual post-graduation conundrum: going from the heady life as a senior – big (wo)man on campus if you will – with internships where I was flattered by superiors saying, “We’ll be working for Lorraine someday,” to being told that I had no real experience and if I wanted some I had to start at the bottom. The “bottom” by the way – then as now – paid a non-living wage. I actually was better off then some who, in addition to their 9-to-5s, took second jobs at Macys and the like, to still barely make ends meet. People – myself included — continued to accept parental monetary contributions, and often enjoyed all-you-can-eat chicken wings with the purchase of a glass of wine, designating it dinner.

It was called paying one’s dues. At least that’s what we were told, and we accepted it as bible.

Now it seems bellyaching is the way to go. Demanding respect and employment based on the mere fact that, heck, they went to a university, with a student loan chaser, and want to afford a nice apartment, cool clothes and a social life.

If that fails, they can always follow in the footsteps of the 26-year-old law school graduate suing her alma mater because she didn’t get a job. (She actually was offered a job, but she didn’t like that one.) So she took freelance paralegal work, yes, deemed beneath her, then decided to take her former school to court.

She’s not the first. In 2011, newly-minted lawyers across the country sued at least fifteen law schools accusing them of misleading recruits about their chances of finding decent-paying jobs. The plaintiffs felt they had the right because as we all know life is one big guarantee. One by one the suits were thrown out.

Even though these young people are not seeing a benefit from their actions, I have to hand it to them for not only speaking up for themselves, but their sense of entitlement. If nothing else it’s making their needs part of the national conversation.

Perhaps we of a certain age should learn from our juniors. After all, don’t we all know, not just educated, but über-experienced people, forced to take positions below their skill sets after being downsized? And those are the lucky ones who’ve found work at all.

I know a former EVP Creative Director at a major design firm who was “asked to resign” when her boss’s son took over the company. She chose retirement over looking for a new job, which she knew would probably be impossible to get due to her age; besides her depressed state most likely would not have allowed her to shine on interviews.

Another friend was the VP of HR at a major media company, until being let go and replaced by two colleagues who divided her salary because each had half her working years.

An acquaintance, who is a lawyer with thirty years under his belt, lost his job, sent out three hundred resumes and got two responses, both “no.”

There are other stories like is, but none that include: “Then I tweeted, Facebooked, Instagrammed or wrote a letter (the old fashioned mode of protesting) that went viral about how unfairly I was treated.”

Also, no group with a name like 50-Plus Lives Matter was formed to take up the plight of those who’ve kept their noses to the grindstone for decades, before they were cast aside.

I guess we have to garner attention for ourselves.

Whining across the web. Suing. Come on, we can do it; since, you know, experience, an admirable work ethic, and maturity no longer do the trick.

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.