So for my spring break I went to visit my dad in Chicago. We were right in the city and I talked with many other professionals in Chicago that he works with. First of all, I think it’s important to note that Chicago is a very segregated city, at least right within downtown. According to an article, available here: http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/03/24/10-of-the-most-segregated-cities-in-the-u-s/7/ from last year, Chicago is the fourth most segregated city in the U.S. This article specifically mentions the different neighborhoods and the racial connotations attached to each, but even spending time in the city, the segregation is painfully obvious. While eating at a restaurant in the Loop for example, the waitresses and hostesses were white and the cooks and busboys were black or Latino. Or take another example, in our hotel, the concierge was white and all of the maids I have seen are black or Latino.
In class we have talked a lot about the evolution of the labor movement and its relation-or lack thereof-to the civil rights movement. For me, it was really interesting now having that background and seeing some of the effects of it within the city of Chicago. While talking to one of my dad’s friends, the manager of an upscale hotel, I saw many relations between the background we had been talking about in class and the relationship between worker, specifically a non white worker, and manager. For example, this person explained that her experience with a union is that it has gotten a tad out of hand. Apparently unions are now asking for more benefits that aren’t necessarily fitting within what some proprietors consider fair. This individual explained that unions weren’t created for a person working an entry level job at McDonald’s for example, to be able to support himself or herself and his or her four children without the desire to move up and earn a better living. Unfortunately the timing wasn’t right or I would have to loved to have had a conversation about this while bringing race into it.
This is an idea that I have and am currently struggling with voicing and explaining because, for one thing, my personal background influences it a lot and second of all, my brief times spent in Chicago have been the first opportunities I have had to really see this type of labor segregation and its effects on society. Because of the American idea that anyone can work their way up if they just work hard enough is so ingrained in our society’s mentality, having conversations about unions gets very controversial very quickly. I personally believe that the safety that unions offer, or at least initially did (I am solely speaking from what we have explored in class and my limited knowledge of how unions function now) is a very helpful and vital aspect to U.S. Labor; ensuring fair treatment and manager and worker relationships are all elements that should be guaranteed to workers but, perhaps, as the individual I conversed with seems to believe, they have become too lax and have only enabled people to demand greater benefits not fitting for their job. It makes sense to me that the more professional, complex job such as a lawyer or an accountant should have better benefits and protection than entry level jobs such as the one at McDonald’s mentioned above. Otherwise the incentives of the American ideal of working your way up are gone aren’t they? But then I guess is that American ideal even possible any more? How much does that depend on race? I think within this class we can already answer that.