Let's start a conversation about the service industry. Tell us your story at our new Tumblr, Minimum Ragers.
For GOOD's spring issue, I wrote a piece called "Minimum Rage," about a new generation of downwardly mobile, low-wage service workers. I profiled a feisty, highly educated bartender named Emily and told the story of the Jimmy John's union, a group of young people trying to unionize the sandwich chain. At the heart of the piece was a question: Will young service workers hold out for "real" jobs—or fight for the ones they have now?
As people began to retweet and reblog the story, I saw an overwhelming sense of recognition: "Sadly I think this is my life," one Tumblr user remarked. "Hits close to home," another person tweeted. "I'm only 21 and I have now worked in cafes and other service industry jobs for 7 years," someone wrote in the comments. It became clear that readers were seeing themselves in Emily and the Jimmy John's workers. They were mad, and they were itching to say their piece.
Storytelling is one of the most powerful forms of activism. When Occupy Wall Street was heating up, what touched me the most was the We Are the 99 Percent Tumblr showcasing the personal stories behind the protest jargon. We've decided to do the same with the service industry. It's the fastest-growing sector of the economy, and half of the 20-something workforce holds low-wage service jobs. Yet neither the big unions nor the White House want to invest in this industry. Some of us may be in these jobs for a long, long time. So let's demand that they get better.
The first step is to start a conversation. If you work in a restaurant or retail job that doesn't provide a living wage or health insurance or protection from getting fired, submit to our new Tumblr, Minimum Ragers, and tell us why you're mad. What is your day-to-day reality, and what do you want to change? Send us stories, images, gifs, quotes or links—anything that humanizes the disheartening data about our sinking wages and rising living costs. You can submit straight from Tumblr, tweet us your take, or email me. There's no reason these jobs can't be "real."
Photo by Benjamin Innes