January 16, 2013

Making a Difference

Yesterday, on my other blog, Our Daily Green, we asked a simple question, Are you ready to be a changemaker? We weren't referring to working as a cashier and counting 43 cents back to a customer, but instead, we were referring to the ability to make a difference in your community. But I'm here to tell you about the ways I've made both kinds of change.

When I graduated from college, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was, I want to leave the world a better place than when I found it. I still subscribe to that philosophy, but it can be a rather nebulous concept if you don't know where to start. 

My first job out of college was actually the same one I had all through college, but I was promoted to full time with additional responsibilities. I worked at a grocery store and we were part of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. And wow, did I make a lot of change. Usually to the tune of at least 1500 customers per day at the store. After college graduation, I quickly went from clocking in and out without much thought, to really looking long and hard at what I did 40 plus hours/week. I studied the contracts and knew what our rights as workers were and before long I was elected store union steward. It was pretty shocking on many levels because without question, most of the members were grizzled veterans of the industry, folks who had slung bags of groceries, unloaded semi-trucks and filled the store shelves with cans in the late hours of the night for well over 25 years, whereas I had only been on the job about 4 years. 

I was in the customer service booth, training cashiers and programming prices into the computer. My co-workers put their trust in me to represent them with the management. In fact, I was soon elected to be part of the entire local union's contract negotiating committee, one of about 10 members of 26,000. As part of our contract, we were required to picket non-union stores in the area, or management could require us to take a cut in our hourly wage, to remain competitive. If you ever see picket lines around at local stores, that is why, it's part of the contractual agreement. I actually marched on a picket line while I was 8 months pregnant. I also participated in a city-wide media campaign which included television commercials,  radio spots, printed fliers, newspaper inserts and billboards. 

I still believe strongly in the concept of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. We had medical benefits, pensions, and modest hourly cost of living increases. Our work force was able to pay their bills with dignity and honesty. Non-union stores traditionally pay their employees minimum wage for part time hours with no benefits. To this day, Walmart has more employees on welfare than any other job creator. 

This all was over 17 years ago, before I had children and decided that I was going to save the world 2 people at time instead of 26,000. Still I get the itch for activism and making a difference on a larger scale. That is what is so incredible about the power of social media and the ability to build communities and affect change from the comfort of your own home. Whatever your cause, whatever difference you want to make, you can join communities around the nation to pool resources and become a vehicle for change. The tools are at your disposal. Take a look and learn more about how you personally can make a change. 

disclosure: I am the luckiest person in the world. I am actually being compensated to encourage you to go out and make a difference. How cool is that? 

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