Monday, June 20, 2011

Target the American Dream

Last week, workers at a Target retail store in New York rejected unionization and while I'm certain that many could argue the various merits for or against that decision, I would like to take issue with a bit of the dramatic language offered by union president Bruce W. Both.

Both states that "Target did everything they could to deny these workers a chance at the American Dream... However, the workers' pursuit of a better life and the ability to house and feed their families is proving more powerful."

This statement got me thinking about how earners at the lower end of the income scale are depicted, not just by this union leader whose primary interest is on expanding his organizations reach, but in general.

In short, I fundamentally disagree with Mr. Both's statement and the general depiction of unskilled laborers.

These workers, by performing simple menial labor in a retail chain are doing everything they can to deny themselves the American Dream.

Consider what it costs to have the minimum American Dream... to live in America, have a family, a house, a car, some decent clothes, and be reasonably fed and properly insured.

It's pretty expensive and can't be done by simply stocking shelve in a retail store.

There is no rational person who will argue that the American Dream can be had by simply working in a retail chain doing basic labor... labor that is often times performed perfectly well by minors or even individuals with developmental disabilities and handicaps of the mind.

The modern day version of the American Dream demands more than the minimum level of effort and further, requires real strategy.

If it's well understood in advance that a particular direction can never pay an American Dream yielding living wage, then it would be best to face that fact and not have false expectations about what may come of your effort.

For example, suppose you want to be a musician but the best you could muster given your efforts is to blow a G-note on a tuba.

Knowing that no musician in history has ever made a career of single tone should demand that you change your strategy either working harder to become a real musician or changing disciplines altogether.

The last thing you would want to do is to pretend that somehow being able to play a single note makes you a valuable musician or, worse yet, join up with a group of other G-note blowing tuba "players" in hopes that somehow more value is created from the union.

This line of thinking may seem callous to many given that current trends of discourse tend to pander to the "disadvantaged" forcing many to spin roughly the same language as used by Mr. Both but the fact remains, the American Dream cannot be had by stocking shelves in a retail chain and no amount of unionization, socialization or dramatic language will ever change that fact.