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This generation needs to get paid

OPINION

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March 07, 2013|By Niki Fritz, @fritzfrack | For RedEye

Most of my friends don't have full-time jobs. No, they have overly-full-time jobs, as in 60-hour-work-week, soul-crushing, existing-on-Red-Bull-and-happy-thoughts-of-retirement jobs. Or if they don't have "real" jobs, they have unpaid or barely paid internships that they have been plugging away at for the past three to five years.

Everywhere I look, I can't help but see that my poor, idealistic Generation Y is being slowly and depressingly squeezed dry of every last ounce of precious productivity and energy.

Despite my natural hippy penchant, for years I didn't blame "the man" for the increasingly heavy load at work. I had entered the work force in 2008, just when the recession was really getting nasty. I knew low pay and crazy hours were the aftermath of the nation's recent economic woes; it was something I just needed to weather. And so I did, like the rest of my storm-weary comrades.

But recently, this one little phrase caught my attention during my daily consumption of NPR: "The Dow is up today… ." Even with the painful cuts of the sequester, 8 percent unemployment and a generally sour work morale, corporations seem to be doing just fine.

According to The New York Times, corporate earnings have risen 20 percent each year since 2008, while workers' incomes increased by a measly 1.4 percent. Basically workers are getting the smallest slice of the income pie that they've seen since the 1960s.

Corporations are increasing their profits by squeezing more efficiency out of their workers who are still terrified of this "recession." And as long as companies can keep this glorious productivity-increasing fear alive, nothing will be "trickling down" anytime soon, especially to the 20-something crew.

I know how this sounds to the more seasoned workers out there. I know that just by uttering my dissatisfaction, I'm labeled one of those whiny, privileged Gen Y kids. I get that. I've had more than a few rather unflattering Hannah Horvath-esque moments in my life where I bemoaned having to work at 6:30 a.m. when I really just wanted to create my precious art. Hell, I think I just had one last week.

The thing is, when our bosses were "toughing it out" at the beginning of their careers, it wasn't a world of never-ending internships and dead ends. It wasn't a world of skyrocketing school debt with little to no economic prospects after graduation.

According to a 2011 Pew Report, the net worth for households under 35 years old decreased by 68 percent over the past two decades. And that's not just because of the recession. Because while those under 35 saw their savings dwindle, those over 65 saw theirs rise 42 percent.

We are living in a world of scarily disproportioned wages. The average head of a company now makes 380 times what his average employee makes; that is not 380 times what lowest-paid employee makes, but 380 times the average employee's salary. It is hard to justify not paying your interns when your Mr. Burns-style CEO is raking it in.

I would like to pretend that this is a call to arms for my fellow menial laborers, a battle cry of sorts to demand more out of the man. But let's be realistic here. When the majority of 20-somethigns are done with their 60 hour weeks, they just want to take a nap.

Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.

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