Opinion: Grads may have no options but downhill



Elaina Sauber

Elaina Sauber

Elaina Sauber is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

I hope your semester has been both gratifying and challenging. As graduation is a mere five months away, the days of measuring life by semester are counting down as well. And, believe me, the older you become, the faster it approaches.

If you’re graduating, you’ve probably given at least some thought to how your life is going to look in the future. While some of us are lucky enough to remain covered on our family’s health insurance until 26, the question of finding a job after graduation looks bleak.

Whether they are paying for graduate school, supporting themselves or both, there’s a good chance many of our graduating seniors will find themselves working minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet.

As I watched the viral videos showing total pandemonium at retailers this past Thursday and Friday, I felt pity for employees that had to forgo Thanksgiving with their families to instead work through the night alongside customers who, at times, became violent. However, as Karin Klein of the Los Angeles Times put it, “Why doesn’t the public get a whole lot angrier about the shenanigans stores inflict on their employees the other 363 days of the year?”

In college, it’s not a big deal if your manager calls and says business is slow that day and you aren’t needed — you might relish the free time. But for many employees at retailers such as Wal-Mart, the practice of cancelling workers’ shifts or sending them home when business is slow has only fueled protests by employees across the country. This past Friday, Wal-Mart employees held rallies at 1,500 stores nationwide demanding full-time work for those who want it.

It’s easy to blame employees and assume they can find a job at any time. But what if there really is no alternative in sight other than applying for taxpayer-funded programs and scouring the workforce for other part-time, minimum-wage jobs?

This past May, the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce released a report crediting new demographic data from Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, giving an idea of the range of taxpayer subsidization of Wal-Mart. The report found that “a single 300-employee Wal-Mart Supercenter in Wisconsin could cost taxpayers anywhere from $904,542 to nearly $1.75 million per year, or about $5,815 per employee.”

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the committee, said “The labor policies of Wal-Mart … end up leaving taxpayers holding the bag.”

I know with finals approaching, the last thing you probably want to think about is finding a job after you graduate. But hear me out: These are issues that will affect many of us, and our strength lies in our awareness. Soon we’ll have to answer the age-old paradox of the free market —when does the obsession with cutting costs begin to harm the system we seek to maintain?