For many, the notion of the “American dream” conjures images of late 19th to early 20th century immigration. People fled southern and eastern Europe and western Asia as a result of drought, religious persecution, war and famine.
The United States was, in theory, a place of endless opportunity and new beginnings. You could work hard and make a living, have a roof over your head and put food on the table. Although this proved to be much more difficult upon arriving in America, in many instances it could still be done. Over time, however, it has gotten much harder.
In a world where people with college degrees are struggling to pay the bills, one can imagine it is even harder for those who were unable to go to college. One job is no longer enough to begin with, and when the economy acts up, the one thing that protects workers is quickly attacked: unions.
In 2011, John Kasich attacked collective bargaining for unions and criticized public school teachers in an effort to look better post-recession. Following the COVID-19 recession, it is now United Auto Workers, or UAW, on the chopping block. In the auto industry, many people already have to work two jobs and will have even less of a livable wage if the UAW isn’t able to properly function.
The automotive industry is a core part of Ohio’s economy and the workers who carry the industry should not have to struggle to get by. Doing demanding work at a company such as Jeep, Ford or General Motors used to mean you could provide for a family. Today, workers at companies such as Jeep receive incredibly low pay and few benefits as they work six or seven days per week on up to ten-hour shifts. For a company worth billions of dollars and owned by an even larger multinational car company, Stellantis, that is especially unacceptable.
Unions are incredibly easy to attack and undermine for those who don’t value workers or who don’t fully understand unions which makes it even more important to remain vigilant. In a country long romanticized for the ability to make it regardless of how much money or education someone has, it is disappointing that the public must be a watchdog in this context.
Still, persistence is key. Every time a company tells the world it doesn’t care about its employees, the world must show up and prove that it does.
Some say the American dream is dead, some say alive and some say it's a figment of the country’s collective imagination and never existed. Regardless of where you stand on this, the idea that every human being deserves a livable wage has a lot more to do with empathy than it does any sort of nationalism or politics. Somewhere along the way, this idea became radical and I hope we can find our way back.
If you would like to support UAW or learn more about the cause, click here to open the organization’s website.
Megan Diehl is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the opinions expressed in this column do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk about the article? Email Megan at email@example.com.
Assistant Opinion Editor