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Meet Tammy, Project Pengyou Intern and Fall ’14 Leadership Fellow!

A little story about myself originally published on projectpengyou.org

Hi, I’m Tammy, Project Pengyou Fall intern and former Project Pengyou Leadership Fellow. I study journalism and mass communications and East Asian studies at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Let me tell you how I made my family’s story my story.

Tammy Tian

Memories of my “China”


young Tammy

I was born and raised in the suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but my most vivid childhood memories are two hours south in Chinatown, Chicago. Most people think of Chinatown as a busy street where tourists stroll in and out and snippets of Mandarin can be heard on the street.

That’s not the Chinatown I remember.

In the late 90s, the streets of Chinatown were populated by immigrants from southern China – mainly older ladies with armfuls of produce, crowding around the tiny import markets. As they haggled for groceries, a clatter of Cantonese (a predominant dialect of Chinese), a riot of color and a mild sense of claustrophobia added to the chaos. On the holidays, my parents would take us to visit our relatives there. We squeezed three generations into a condo a few blocks outside of Chinatown. I remember us as kids running around throwing footballs while our parents discussed business and our grandmother was busy making food for all twelve grandchildren.

It was in Chinatown that I built the foundation for my identity and spent some of the happiest days of my life; I wished we could stay.

Raised by a Pair of Restauranteurs


Tammy Parents

My parents run a restaurant on the end of a strip mall on the outskirts of Milwaukee, recognizable by a big sign with the words “China-Hut” over a green, upturned pagoda-style rooftop. The waiting area is no bigger than a hallway, but it has a large window that takes advantage of the natural lighting to create an illusion of space. During the lunch and dinner rush, my mom takes the customers’ order behind the countertop covered in Chinese take-out boxes. My dad stands behind a wok and makes each dish to order. During down time, they prep vegetables, butcher meat, batter deep-fried dishes, craft the specialty sauce for the next rush and take stock of the supplies.

When I was in preschool, my brothers and I played in the back of the restaurant while my parents worked at the front. Eventually, they felt my brother, the eldest child, was responsible enough to take care of my other brother and me, so we stopped going to the restaurant after school. Instead, we stayed at home and only saw our parents when they drove us to school in the mornings and when they came home with food at night. At home, the three of us created our own little world. That meant a lot of video games, computers, books (mainly comic books), sporting goods, Vanilla Coke, and Oreo cookies as well as high-speed internet and cable T.V.   My parents gave us whatever we wanted in order to be happy as their way of fulfilling their absence in our lives and expressing their love for us.

Another barrier grew between my parents and me during those years as well: language. My English progressed as I tried to mimic the refined language in literary classics. My Cantonese froze with the linguistic finesse of a first-grader. As feelings of adolescence grew difficult to describe, I lost the desire to speak with my parents. My little accomplishments, my dreams, my worries were unknown to my parents; and theirs unknown to me.

Before I knew it, it was time for me to leave home. I couldn’t find the words to express my gratitude for them.  I graduated high school, a stranger to Mom and Dad.

My Family’s “China”


As I neared my twenties, the age at which my parents, aunts, and uncles had made their own decision to leave behind their life in China for the States, I wondered about their motivations. If they had stayed in China where they had resources and connections, they could have had a much more comfortable life. I didn’t buy the story that they immigrated for us — their then nonexistent children. There had to be something more.

In family gatherings, the narrative of our family history is like an epic poem rich with aphorisms, centered around China and my grandmother in the 1940s. Throughout the years, these stories painted a fuzzy picture of my family’s past and it fascinated me.

My grandmother lost her mother at an early age, and soon after Japanese soldiers brutally trampled their home in Guangzhou. Around the age of 12, she became the family’s eldest child, taking care of five younger siblings. For months, they survived on a steamed egg dish made by adding two parts water to every one part egg and then steaming it to a thin, watery, custard-like texture. This way, every egg could be split between her and her siblings and would last them last three days. I found this a bit hard to believe, but in our family, Grandma’s words were the absolute truth. After I heard this story, I took Grandma seriously when she told us to not to waste a single grain of rice and eat our bowls clean.

At the age of six, I told my grandmother with tears in my eyes that my eldest aunt was the scariest person in the world. In turn, she told me that when my aunt was in her teens during the 1970s, she was an ace at everything: studies, athletics, work and even in the army.  At the peak of her successes, school officials, her coach and her teammates wouldn’t accept her into a leadership position simply because of her mother’s (my grandmother) political background. Frustrated, my aunt wanted to leave China. She swam across the strait between Guangzhou and Hong Kong (then a British colony) four times and was sent to prison three. I never spoke another ill word about her.

At that time, stories like these were just stories. Outside my family, I was given no evidence that verified them to be true, not in my textbooks I studied, not in the books I read, not in the movies I watched. I was always fascinated how they could exist separately from the world I learned about outside my family. The summer before college started. I was taken back to those old stories and wondered if they were true.

I stayed at my grandmother’s house for a week to fact-check these stories. I asked my grandmother how exactly our family came to the U.S., and if things could really have been that different in China. When I saw her eyes well up with tears, I knew I had asked something unnecessary. She showed me some old photos from the days our family was still in China: photos of her younger siblings, photos of my aunt outside of the gates of a prison. After this week with my grandmother, an outline of my family was burned into my brain.

When college started, I decided to take classes on Chinese history and politics to learn about the world that pushed my family to leave their home. The dates of everything lined up with my family’s story. I gained a foundation of keywords and events which opened up a new world of conversations with my parents. My family’s history finally became mine, and I wanted to share it with others.

Tammy Family

China Beyond Home


A lot of people talk about culture shock when they go to a new foreign country and return home. I had my first experience on my university campus where I met masses of international students from China for the first time in my life. When I was in Milwaukee, anyone that was ethnically Chinese was a close friend of my family. We were a part of the small, Chinese restaurateur community in Milwaukee. We supported each other for survival. With each student I met, I had the tendency to greet them with open arms and an open heart, just like they were my family. It was a habit.

More often than not, when I approached my new classmates, they were happy to know there were people in the States that welcomed them. There were times when I would invite them over to chat. I’d prepare tea and little snacks as I would normally when hosting a guest. When they’d invite me over, they simply flicked on their laptop and ordered takeout. They chuckled at me and said I didn’t have to be so stuffy and old-fashioned.

We’d often share our experiences growing up at home, and our similar lists of favorite singers, movies, and T.V. shows. I’d list the names of artists and songs that I enjoyed the most, Leslie Cheung, Anita Mui, Jackie Cheung, Andy Lau, their response to me would be, “Oh, so you like the classics.”

That’s when I realized the China I knew was outdated. In these thirty years, that my parents have lived in the States, how much could China have changed?

I wanted to discover modern China and to breathe some life into the word “China” as Americans understand it today. That is why I’m in China now.

So far, it has not fallen short of my expectations. I am fortunate to have come to this realization at this moment in time, and thankful to be involved with Project Pengyou for this past year as a leadership fellow, as a chapter leader, as a happy intern.

 

The Backdoor to a Master’s Degree

I’m not a very conventional person. Part of the reason why is because it’s fun, but most of it is because I don’t know the proper way to do things. Unconventional is my life in Tsinghua.

As an exchange student from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, I had no restrictions on the type of courses I could take. I only had two major regulations: I must take 12 to 18 credits. I can take no more than 8 credits outside my major. In other words, I had lots of room to be unconventional.

The first week of classes here was a nightmare.

The course registration site crashed because the servers couldn’t handle the number of students logging in at the same time. The finalized course list was only available on the course registration site. There was no English translation of the course list. Panicking, I translated the courses and the course syllabuses with my broken Chinese, picked as many journalism courses as I could and hoped for the best.

Tsinghua has a two week time period to sample classes. In those two weeks I flew through about 10 different classes and bought textbooks and completed the first week’s homework for a good half of each of those classes. After realizing it took me thirty minutes to fully comprehend one page of text in Chinese, I decided I couldn’t take courses taught in Chinese.

My finalized course list for the semester is as such: Business and Finance Reporting, Economics and Finance for Journalists, and Mass Communications and Contemporary Chinese Society, and Oral Chinese. All the courses are under Tsinghua’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications except for the Chinese class.

A lot of people ask me why I decided to study journalism in China. China is a black hole for Journalism as we understand it in the U.S: As a journalist, you’re always fighting against censorship. You face difficulties in finding information online. You never know when you’re too political. You can get kicked out of the country at any time. Your stories don’t seem relevant to 95 percent of the American population.

Despite all that, I still decided to study journalism Tsinghua University. In 2002, Tsinghua established a journalism and mass communications academy. In 2007, it started a two year master’s program in Global Journalism. The program is sponsored by big names like Bloomberg, Bank of America, the Knight Foundation and Deloitte. These names, make the institution seem open.

But, interestingly, Liu Binjie, the former minister of China’s General Administration of Press and Publication—the censorship department of the Chinese government—was Dean of School of Journalism and Communications in 2012, the same year Xi Jinping, the president of China, stepped into office. I note this because veteran China journalists, say that the control of media in China has been tightening since Xi has stepped into office. Liu is the one that is leading the ideology of Tsinghua’s school of journalism and mass communications. Is it a big deal? How are his experiences reflected in the leadership of the department here? How much does it matter? Are these the right questions I should be asking?

What happens in the high level decision I probably won’t ever know. It’s been difficult to find Professor Liu to spare a chat. But, experiencing the training that is accepted by this institution will help me better understand the media system in China. I never really put much thought into the administration and history of an institution until I came here.

Media regulation in modern China is a key part of the government. Since the foundation of the Communist Party of China (CCP), utilizing media was a big part of uniting the nation. In the 1930s, during the civil war with the Nationalist Party of China (the one with Chiang Kai-shek) the CCP was on the brink of disintegration. The Nationalists bullied the CCP into the desolate northwestern China. By then, the CCP had little weapons, little infrastructure, little money.

Media and mass communications was the only weapon they had. They were phenomenal with it. From the very beginning, high standing individuals in the CCP made decisions on how media should be made, who should make it, and what can be said to create the idealized image of China. That mindset towards the media as a weapon is still very apparent China today as we can see with heavy-handed censorship and overly positive news reports. My logic follows that tracing the media system in China still reflects the political mindset, internal conflicts and wishes of the party. And today, added onto the media system is a visible platform for the public to communicate back to the official image of China, the internet.

My classmates here too, I’m very interested in them. There are from good mix of nations: Russia, France, Slovakia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Pakistan, Italy, U.S., Korea, and China. I’d say of the 40 classmates that I’ve been able to share a conversation with, most are studying here for practical reasons, a switch in career, a boost in English language reporting, or a prestigious name to put onto their resume. I do get a vibe that they’re not satisfied with the reporting at home. They want to make a difference in the reporting back at their home.

So it is to this school, with an odd mix of Bloomberg terminals in our classrooms, and lecturers from American universities – that I as journalism student would like to learn from like, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and the University of Pennsylvania – Annenberg School for Communications – that I found a backdoor into though my exchange as a student from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Orgially posted on Study Abroad Correspondents @ International Academic Programs, University of Wisconsin Madison

Beijing Subway

Ten Things I Am Looking Forward to in Beijing

Ten Things I Am Looking Forward to in Beijing

Over the past few years of researching online, interviewing past China study abroad participants, and grilling professors about their experience in China to plan this opportunity abroad, I have collected a few nuggets of insight:

1. Convenience Stores

No, no, convenience stores don’t mean the commercial pharmacy down the street. It’s not CVS. It’s not Walgreens.


Family Mart

It’s nostalgia. Convenience stores are a happy place (Disclaimer: This is coming from someone whose childhood was transplanted from Chinatown, Chicago to Wisconsin suburb). All the happy memories of childhood – warmed steamed buns, rice dumplings, bottled red tea; even better bottled milk tea, childhood heroes reproduced as collectible goods (Naruto, Hello Kitty, Pokemon anyone?) – jewels that once took a 2 hour drive, can be found in that convenience store right outside the door.

2. Being near Major E-Sports Competitions

Maybe it’s the recent hype for THE major DOTA 2 tournament in August, Ti5, but, E-Sports in China are big (DOTA 2 is a popular online game produced by Valve).

DOTA2 G Leauge

The second biggest international DOTA 2 tournament featured an opening by JJ Lin, the beloved singer-songwriter that has been stealing hearts across Asia since 2003. Think someone with the cultural presences of Usher holding a concert at a gaming venue. But, the wonder of E-sports goes beyond the glamour. It’s the story. These video gaming enthusiasts tucked away as outcasts in the basements of their parents home have made a multimillion enterprise and a new culture. It’s lovely.

3. Visiting the Expat Communities

Imagining the costs it takes to leave home, these people must have great stories to tell.

A district in Beijing known for expats
Beijing is a rather internationally oriented city. It’s a mix of Washington D.C plus the shopping districts, financial districts like Chicago or New York has. It’s fun to look at what aspects of the expats’ homes are carried over to China. I hear that microbrews and cheese enthusiasts are popping up around Beijing. Perhaps one day, Americatown (or would Wisconsintown be more proper?) will be accepted by google’s auto-correct.

4. Asking Chinese locals how they view America and China

Communist, eat dog, immoral, job sealers, try-hards, sounds like China in the U.S. It’s hard to get anything more than an outdated stereotype inside the U.S.

Snapshot of China

Our information about China goes through a filter before reaching us, whether it is through the government or the press. Stereotypes are necessary, but there should be stereotypes that are closer to the actualities that are happening in day-to-day China. The last fifty years in China were crazy. People who lived through it are still alive. People who are going to shape the next fifty years are shaping their view on the world.

5. Looking Like the Majority

Edited photo with a face photoshopped onto 10 different heads

Being Chinese-American in a quiet Wisconsin Suburb means sticking out like a sore thumb.

China isn’t as concerned with being “politically correct” about identity as the U.S. may be. There are horror stories about Chinese-Americans or simply Asian-Americans being mistaken as Chinese-Chinese (Nationals sounds odd), and being scolded for not understanding Chinese and Chinese culture, but I’d rather have that – and the ability to blend in the background – than being odd all the time. It can get exhausting (I’ve also learned a trick to tell people I’m from Korea when I can’t handle being scolded anymore — if you’re reading this, thanks Frances).

6. Visiting Friends from Across the World

ProjectPengyou_UW

Food with good company, what more could anyone want? Shout-out to Project Pengyou!

7. Crowds in the Subway
Crowded subways are a great way to study people-to-people interactions while appreciating high-tech public transportation.

Beijing Subway

The subway is a unique mix of routine and chaos. There are people from all sorts of backgrounds. Some are regulars, some are lost. The stops indicate the district people are headed to and from. The time, the location, the people, a PhD candidate struggling to finish could write their dissertation from the intersection these variables. After a week of riding the subway in the sweaty summer months, this statement will probably be retracted.
8. Taking Journalism Courses
News in China is run under the Propaganda Department.

02

I’m sure, journalism is not an attractive profession to anyone looking for good income or a normal job — that I have learned over my meager years as a J-school student myself. Journalists are in it for the story that speaks to the heart. In the U.S. journalists are romanticized as the fourth estate, always keeping the big guys in check. That doesn’t fly in China. Then, how does the mind of a journalist work in China?

9. Indie Film Festivals

Indie films are great because they’re made for the spirit of filmmaking promoting a cause and story-telling, not necessarily commercial value.

BIFF

That’s not to say commercial films are terrible either, they serve different purposes. Unfortunately, last year, the Indie film fest in Beijing was cancelled by the government. Hopefully this year, the screening will be approved. If not, well, then there are trusty streaming sites thanks to poor IP laws and regulation.

10. Traveling outside Beijing

Photo of Jiuzhaigou

Jiuzhaigou beckons — photo credit to creative commons

It was a lazy summer day filled by lounging in my bed when I stumbled across this image. I had to sit up to take a proper gasp of air when I saw it. This image has been saved onto my flash-drive since middle school. This is Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟) in Sichuan Province. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I am going to go here before I leave China.

My only fear is that my expectations of this list of ten, will be too high. Coming next, 10 things I am not looking forward to in Beijing!

Chinatown, New York: the engine that has completed its 100 year service

It was late in the morning. I was waiting for my mother’s friend in the bustling cosmopolitan center of New York, Manhattan. But tucked in Chinatown, the people moved slowly. The buildings were old and worn. The place seemed old and exhausted. Manhattan’s Chinatown is fading.

My mother’s friend was running late, so I entered the nearest cafe to kill some time. I ordered a coffee and sat down.

On the right, were four long aged tables. Elderly Chinese cooped together in their puffy, desaturated winter coats that engulfed the tiny stools they sat on. To the left are glass displays overstuffed with of baked goods. In the back, was an open kitchen framed by no less than ten pages of menu options. The window in front of me framed a spread of vintage red green and yellow neon signs stacked upon each other.

There was an odd familiarity of all this. It was the China from my parent’s favorite 1960s and 70s Hong Kong gangster films captured on VHS that we frequently watched on our dim living room television set.

Chinatown reflected how Chinese immigrants remembered and created the home they wish they had for more than 100 years. It was built and maintained by generations of young outcasts from a long period of social crises in China—the fall of the last emperor, a failed revolution, a World War sandwiched between two civil wars, and hyper-socialist policies—who creatively squeezed through American immigration restrictions.

When they arrived in the U.S., these early Chinese immigrants defaulted to starting their own business. Working for others was difficult due to their poor English and discriminatory wages enforced upon them. The Chinatown community grew as older generations passing on their expertise maneuvering through America’s sticky anti-immigration policies.

However by 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act, significantly increased the immigration quota for Chinese. A surge of new Chinese immigrants began to flood the U.S: the professionally trained entrepreneurs and the well-off looking for a better living standards.

According to the 2013 immigration report by the Population Division of the New York City Department of City Planning, the average annual income of new Chinese immigrants is $42,766, that’s well above the middle class in China. They’re well educated, 47 percent hold a bachelor’s degree, and emigrate into the states in their late 40’s with secure occupations.

Across from to me in the cafe, the neighborhood ladies gossiping about the city pulled out latest copy of the local Chinese newspaper. The headline read “Chinese Restaurant Owner Robbed.”

I began to eavesdrop as one of the ladies spoke, “Did you hear that the old restaurant got robbed earlier? People think we have money here, but the rent just so high. How do they expect us to live here?”

According to a 2008 report by the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, an Asian American advocacy group, increasing has forced the business owners in Chinatown are forced to abandon their community. The owners of these fading establishments are aging with their business as the younger generations are unwilling to upkeep the change. As the old establishments sell out, this district of Manhattan has been increasing development and building permits. New luxury apartments and tourist hotels have replaced old staple stores.

Eventually my mother’s friend arrived and praised my choice in cafe. Normally youngsters choose cafes that charge triple the price for the polished, glossy, ambiance.

I asked her about the conditions of this Chinatown. She told me it was better this way. Her daughters have a stable job. She discouraged her kids from following her footsteps, running a restaurant. Even she lost hope in Chinatown. She now picks up jobs in hospitality services. They recently moved into house to call their own in Brooklyn. She tells me leaving behind this excluded place is a sign that things are getting better for the Chinese.

Perhaps, this Chinatown community that grew out of survival is no longer necessary. Perhaps, a few decades from now Manhattan’s Chinatown will only be a myth, a story of an engine that could once help a family jump to the highest socioeconomic class within one generation for the past 100 years.

China experience leads to Peace Corps assignment

Inside a bustling city in the heart of China, one step into the streets and everything seemed coated with a layer of dirt.  From the dusty high rises to the hazy cloud of polluted air, the first impression that Ben Elmakias, UW Class of 2014, had of China was undeniably bleak.  And yet, despite the problems he encountered during his study abroad experience in the northern port city of Tianjin in 2013, this summer Elmakias will return to China to begin his training as an English teacher Peace Corps Volunteer.

Photo of Ben Elmakais

UW-Alumn Ben Elmakias, ’14 English, Chinese

“It’s kind of like when you’re driving past a car accident and you inevitably slow down to stare,” he explained. “You want to know what’s going on.  You feel bad that things aren’t working so well, but you still want to understand it.  That’s my China.”

A gateway to teaching and personal growth

The first week of March 2015 is Peace Corps Week, which will be marked by several Madison events, including an informational meeting at the Red Gym and a “story slam” at Brocach Irish Pub on the Capitol Square .  (Click for more details.)

Peace Corps was on Elmakias’ mind for years before he made the decision to apply.  His interest was tied to his desire to teach others, and to his gratitude for the influential teachers in his own life who guided him through difficulties.  He said his high school English teacher and his college mentors, in particular, helped him get to a positive path of accepting himself and realizing what was important in his life.  Now he wants to emulate their good example.

His thinks his two-year role with the Peace Corps teaching English in a Chinese locale will allow him to test whether becoming an English teacher makes sense.

He also hopes that the Peace Corps will train him in how to work in a starkly different political and cultural environment.  Through Peace Corps forums and on-line materials, Elmakias learned that he should not expect to be able to change the world and will need to recognize that while in China he will be a small part of a complicated situation.

“I have an idealism of ‘I wish everyone could be happy,’” he said, adding that he knows he must also be realistic about his goals.

To future Peace Corps applicants, he recommends that, “You can certainly influence the people you’re going to be in contact with, but you have no control over how big of an influence you will have.”  In addition, applicants should join the Peace Corps “for the right reasons,” which means understanding that you will be working with people who need your skills, not heading off for two fun years free of financial obligations.

Elmakias views his upcoming experience as an opportunity for “doing something I love and enjoy” while developing a better understanding of cultural differences.  “Becoming a global citizen demands expansive sensitivity and awareness that being ‘right’ is relative to context,” he said.

You can’t ignore China

It was at the UW-Madison that Elmakias began to learn Chinese, including his study abroad summer in Tianjin, and he graduated with a major in both English and Chinese.  Some courses that shaped his lens into China were: “Contemporary Chinese Society” with Professor Sida Liu, literature classes with Professor Rania Huntington, and a Daoism class with Professor Mark Meulenbeld.  Elmakias hopes that his upcoming two years in China will fine tune his Chinese to a colloquial level and also provide insight into possible future research topics in Chinese literature.

Elmakias has also embraced the Chinese community on campus.  Last year, he set up the East Asian Cultural Exchange, a student organization that facilitates discussion with Korean, Japanese, Chinese and American students about sensitive or contemporary social topics.

“If you have no interest in China you haven’t learned enough about it,” he said. “If you read a couple articles, it’ll just suck you in.”

Orignal story published on 3/5/2014 at http://china.wisc.edu/news/PeaceCorps.html.

Before right-to-work think balance and checks

It sounds nice. Like a pill, an easy and painless cure to the decaying economy, the right-to-work law will move Wisconsin forward by creating new jobs. That’s what our neighbors in Michigan and Indiana might say as proponents of the right-to-work act. On the other hand, opponents believe that the right-to-work bill will significantly stunt wages and scrape off the employee rights. These oversaturated assertions from both sides require some dilution.

The right-to-work law gives private-sector employees the decision to join and contribute to the services provided by labor unions. Wisconsin is nearing the passage of this law. The bill passed the Senate last week 17-15. The Assembly, on Wednesday afternoon, will have an opportunity to make adjustments to and vote on the bill. If adjustments are made, the Senate will vote again.

Rewind to 2012, when Michigan and Indiana underwent the very same debates with the very same talking points that are now being fired in Wisconsin. It’s been two years. Evidence of what right-to-work actually does for the economy is inconclusive. Matter of fact, in the past year, the unemployment rate in Indiana has leveled off while Wisconsin and Michigan continued to drop. It’s difficult to link any trends in the employment rate or the economy to the single act of turning into a right-to-work state. Moreover, it is questionable whether the demographics, economic environment, and social programs can be transplanted from one state in place of another state for comparison. It’s just not that simple.

To the proponents of right-to-work, it seems as though this is the only way to invigorate the economy by creating new jobs. But, there are a number of different ways stimulate the economy, attract new business, and outcompete neighboring states like tax breaks or targeted state-sponsored initiatives, strategies where Wisconsin is already leading the way.

It is true, however, that we should be wary of the fees paid to Unions. In the past, labor unions were stained with corruption. It was once common practice that unions collected donations out of membership fees to lobby for representatives that favor the authority of labor unions, whether or not the union members, the individual employees, agreed with the positions of these representatives.

But therein comes in the Taft Hartly act of 1953.

This is the act that allowed states to place right-to-work laws because of the previous legal slant in favor of labor unions. More importantly, this is the act that created the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to act as the arbitrator between union members, labor unions and employers. This is the system in place to keep labor unions in check.

Perhaps right-to-work doesn’t sound too terrible since only about 11 percent of the American workforce is a part of a Union. However, for those that are a part of Unions, they are crucial. If there would be a disagreement between employees and employers, unions step in to act as the representative body to voice concerns of the employees to the employers, and then to the government if there are further disputes. By putting these responsibilities in the hands of unions, employees don’t have to worry about losing a job from bringing out their workplace concerns. They don’t have to learn the legal playbook to argue for better working conditions. They don’t lose hours of their paycheck. They can continue work as usual as the union representatives argue their case.

Unions will attempt to provide these services whether or not the right-to-work bill passes. However, the key to the issue is the fact that employees will no longer be obligated to pay for the services provided to them by unions. Should the right-to-work bill pass, and should employees decide not to contribute to unions, the money will not be there for the unions to supply these services. No longer will the labor unions nor employees have the resources to keep their employers in check.

Unions are most crucial in the battles between employees and the big businesses. When employees are competing with big businesses. Unions are necessary to finance, organize, and implement the calls for change to put employees on a level playing field as their employers. They are key to providing a system of checks and balances between the employee and the employer.