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Cathy Youngblood Headshot

A Voice at the Top

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There comes a time when fear meets courage. It is a decision that each worker must make, especially when facing abusive working conditions. I have been a working stiff since the 1970s and faced all kinds of injustices on the job. But it took me to the point of tears to turn that gut wrenching fear into courage enough to speak up to my employers. Realizing at times that fear kept my co-workers from joining me, I began to explore methods to share with them on how to stand strong, yet keep their jobs. It takes an instant to be fearful, it takes some a lifetime to summon courage. This I know; I have lived it.

For the past few months I have been crisscrossing the country talking to my co-workers at Hyatt Hotels. We are asking that a hotel worker, someone like me, be added to the Hyatt Board of Directors.

There is a revolution going on among low-wage workers across the globe. Tap into numerous social media sites and you will notice this. The train has left the station, folks. It's time the rest of us get on board. I and thousands of hotel workers are demanding to be included on corporate boards and understand that we are the ones that keep the guests coming back. The odds are stacked against anyone who challenges corporate hierarchy. Far too many workers are suspended or terminated just for suggesting a better, more efficient, and safer way of completing their daily tasks. Many decisions affecting how a business is run are made among corporate boards and their financial managers. Changes affecting the workforce are implemented without asking what their workers think. This is the precise reason why American workers have begun to fight back; they are determined to change their working conditions and understand real change will only come when their voices are heard in the boardroom as well as in the workplace.

I will be attending the Hyatt annual meeting on June 10 with some of my coworkers to make our case that someone who actually works in their hotels everyday has valuable insight and ought to have a seat at the table. Many workers in other industries are planning to attend their corporate shareholder meetings in protest.

For more than three years now, Walmart employees have spoken out, walked off the job in Black Friday protests, and publicly demanded the owners listen to their concerns. Earlier this year fast food workers began a series of walkouts in New York City, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Seattle; calling for an increase in pay, more hours, and better working conditions. Popular eateries such as Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Subway, and a host of other chains, saw their workers in the streets and some had to close down because of the one day strikes. Some workers aligned themselves with organizations like Fast Food Forward and called for a 15 dollar increase in hourly pay. Workers expressed anger about having spent years on the job with no pay increases, no paid sick days, and being passed over for promotions.

One thing that all workers have in common is the knowledge that billion dollar companies are continually making profits while so many remain economically disadvantaged. Millions of working families rely on public assistance, can't afford healthcare, daycare, or safe housing. Their quality of life is dismal but they understand that it doesn't have to be this way. This revolution of change is sweeping more cities and communities of color.

What we are seeing across America is courage overcoming fear. It is time to change the mindset of corporate officials, and workers are challenging them in ways uncommon just a few years ago. I say welcome to the millions who understand a decent workplace and a living wage are worth fighting for. Keep raising your voice, we are a movement now. A voice at the top is possible, but only if we keep raising ours now.