Warren, Bernhardt, and Aronowitz on the Silver Lining in Millennials Working for Minimum Wage

April 1, 2013

The Roosevelt Institute took MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry by storm this weekend, with Fellows Dorian Warren, Annette Bernhardt, and Nona Willis Aronowitz joining to discuss the current state of work and what it means for the Millennial generation trying to make their way into career paths. As Nona pointed out, there is a potential opportunity that comes from young people struggling to get by in minimum wage jobs: "You have kids who had big dreams of having a fulfilling job and now they’re baristas or they’re working in restaurants and then…there’s this huge swath of a class that’s always been in these jobs." Dorian agreed, adding, "The Millennials who are more privileged and get to boomerang are finally starting to feel and realize just a sliver...of what these groups of poor black and brown kids are experiencing, and that does open up possibliilties for alliance and solidarity."

While there's lately been some discussion of whether and why Millennials are obsessed with money, Nona argues, "The reason that we’re obsessed with money is that we feel like we’ve been getting the short end of the stick and we feel like we can’t take it anymore." But this isn't just about griping. It's also about getting organized. "Once Millennials realize that they might not get that 'real job,'" she says, they might "make the job that they already have real, as in highly paid, with health care and paid sick days." 

There's one more issue that has to be addressed, as Dorian pointed out: the huge numbers of young people behind bars. "We can’t talk about this topic without talking about prisons and the prison industrial complex and the carceral state," he said. "We are channeling a whole group of black and brown youth into jails and prisons...where they will probably never be employed in their lifetimes." Solidarity between baristas can't leave out those who fall off the radar completely.

Check out the other segments for discussions about the rise of temp work, soaring corporate profits, and sinking job security: