Post 5 – What I learned at NCL

Members of the NCL team expressing the League's support for one fair wage through posters.
This photo was taken last week at a rally for raising the tipped wage. I attended the rally with NCL colleagues and got a chance to see Jane Fonda.

My experience at National Consumers League has been fantastic. I’ve learned so many tactics  advocates use to create change and I am grateful for the chance I had to take part in pro-consumer movements.

Hard work, patience, and having an open mind are all essential to social justice. In some cases I haven’t worked as hard as I should, but interning at the League inspired me to put full effort into my work, something I hope will continue in the fall at Brandeis.

Everyone I work with knows just as well as I do that you cannot wait for change to happen to you, you have to make change happen yourself. We are constantly looking for ways to help consumers. When we work harder, we cause more change and help more people.

Even if we work as hard as possible, things still might not happen as quickly as we want. That’s why patience is essential. Whether we are waiting for the next election or working on a years-long project, social justice efforts require a big time commitment.

Before you can change anyone’s mind, you have to know what they think in the first place. Good activists patiently listen to people, even those with opposing views. Open-mindedness is an important part of listening to others.

Rather than stubbornly rejecting everyone who disagrees with you, you should understand their perspective first. Often, immediately or totalling changing something about the world is practically impossible, but compromises would be more easy to create.

Last week, as I left a rally for raising the tipped wage in the capital with other interns and NCL’s executive director, we all stopped to listen to protesters, even though we were hurriedly heading to the museum of African-American History and Culture for a visit.

The protesters brought up important points about D.C.’s initiative to raise the tipped wage. While some of their arguments didn’t make sense, many of them had merits. Yet, a few D.C. council members didn’t see it that way. Some of the offices and members of the “One Fair Wage” movement dismissed restaurant workers’ worries without acknowledging that these were the same people they were meant to serve and help.

I’m proud of the impact I made at NCL. I wrote many questions that will teach kids life skills through NCL’s trivia competition, LifeSmarts. I also brightened up my coworkers’ days with lots of baked goods and worked as hard as I could on all the assignments I was given.

If I had known anything before I started, it would be that NCL is an amazing place to work, but also that I needed to advocate for myself, not just consumers.

I was worried about working in a place where I didn’t know anybody, but the League has such a fun environment that not knowing anyone didn’t matter. I also realized after the past weeks that I could take on more work if I just asked around for it.

My two supervisors didn’t always have much to assign me, but plenty of people in the office did. Working with other colleagues brought me out of my comfort zone and gave me more to do. I just had to learn to seek work out.

I would tell anyone who wants to work at NCL to be hardworking, patient, and open-minded, but I would also tell them to be unafraid of where consumer advocacy and social justice take you. Having an impact is nothing to be afraid of. I wish more people knew that.

Spherical fried zucchini donuts made with an Italian great-grandmother's recipe
I’ve made a habit of bringing everyone at NCL baked goods on Mondays. This week I brought zucchini donuts made from the recipe of my aunt’s neighbor, an Italian great-grandmother. I also made sour cherry biscotti using a recipe from King Arthur Flour.

– Caleigh Bartash