By Janellie Berlanga
A racially diverse and female-rich working class in the United States is considered a “Sleeping Giant” by Tamara Draut, a policy and research specialist of New York based “Demos” who recently visited TAMIU as part of the International Bank of Commerce 2016-2017 Keynote Speaker Series.
The author of “Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class will Transform America” shared her thoughts with over 350 students, faculty, business persons, bankers and TAMIU staff who attended her conference last October 28.
According to her, the current working class may seem to be scraping by, however she considers that that was not always the case. She mentioned the far reaches that this group of people have underwent in order to demand better treatment and payment, not always succeeding.
Draut opened her lecture with a story about her parents, a steel worker and an orthodontist assistant, middle-class workers who with their hard work were able to get their four children through college, without burdening them with debt and while living in a modest but comfortable four-bedroom house. The main reason for introducing the lecture with this interesting hook was to show the vast difference of how the middle class lived not so long ago, comparing it to our current reality.
Families in the Fifties, Sixties and even Seventies were then able to live a full and content life with just blue-collar jobs, but working class families now struggle to put food on the table with the very same jobs. However, Draut considers that there is soon going to be a significant change due the commitment, presence and activities of social justice movements such as the “Fight for Fifteen” and “Black Lives Matter”, both of which will have a deep impact in our social and economic future.
The author and speaker considers that the working class we now have has been marginalized, if not ignored, by politicians and pundits, something that should change swiftly and dramatically in the upcoming years, once this “Sleeping Giant” wakes up.
Just as people fought back then for better treatment in the workforce, people are once again finding their voice and doing the same in this day and age. According to TAMIU student Gabriela Garcia “this keynote speaker really highlighted the fight of the human spirit by explaining to us how people fought for years for things such as better treatment, something so small and yet so important.” Draut’s lecture showed students that there are many people just like them, who are studying and fighting for better treatment, conditions and opportunities.