On Friday, a Yelp/Eat24 employee wrote a lengthy blog post to her CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, about her compensation, which she said came out to about $8 an hour after taxes. A few hours later, she said she was fired. This created a hot debate about how expensive the Bay Area is to live in, and whether or not companies should pay entry-level employees more.
One millennial-age woman, Stefanie Williams, wrote a response to the former Yelper, Talia Jane, accusing her of poor priorities and work ethic. The letter was first published on Medium and then on Business Insider, and it went viral.
One of our readers has written a letter to both women arguing that there’s a larger problem: Older workers are paid too well, often for no reason other than that they’re older.
Dear Editors (and Talia and Stefanie):
I’m writing in response to the now quite popular open letter to the former Yelp employee Talia Jones written by the slightly older, but apparently much wiser Stefanie Williams.
Bashing millennials and shaming those who claim to be struggling financially has grown in popularity, seemingly in response to public attention on income inequality. It seems born of jealousy that younger generations will be handed a better shot at the American dream than we had. I believe that jealousy is natural, but should be individually suppressed for the good of our country, not revered in a business media outlet.
In college, I worked three jobs to pay rent and try to reduce the debt I was taking on. I skipped a year of the college experience, taking the max number of hours each semester so I could graduate early to save a year of non-credit based fees. I did all of this even with tremendous support, emotional and financial, from my family and the unfortunate advantages that come with being “a young white English-speaking woman.” The hard work didn’t end when I graduated; I lived in modest cities (definitely not “the City”) and when I moved to a larger one, I took a second job to support myself.
The difference is that, unlike Stefanie, I don’t wear this as some kind of badge of honor. It was what needed to be done in my particular case. I spent a few bitter years after college jealous of my friends living in NYC who could afford the luxury of unpaid internships. But I’ve matured to know that working that hard to get by should not be the norm and I’d love to see everyone have the opportunities I didn’t.
Cutting your teeth, working your way up, putting in your hours… Those are great ways for longer standing members of the work force to keep younger employees in their place. It’s not based on merit, but instead it’s the people in power holding the only thing they inherently have over young people as critical. You can work incredibly hard, learn everything about your craft, perform excellently at your duties, but you can never speed up time to match their years on the job. It’s a justification for bloating salaries of long-standing management, regardless of how ineffective they may be.
Basically what I’m saying is that if companies can pay CEOs millions, they can pay employees an actual living wage based on merit, not the number of years you’ve worn business casual. More than that, you shouldn’t have to beat the system to get an education and real life experience. Yes, Stefanie, I too worked very hard when I was younger. And I honestly wish no student or young person has to work that hard ever again.
Thank you for your time,