Out of luck and out of jobs as the nation slowly tries to emerge from a recession, many Americans are finding in Conan O'Brien what they can't find elsewhere -- dignity in telling The Man to take a hike.
In O'Brien's fight to keep his job as host of "The Tonight Show" and its coveted 11:35 p.m. time slot on NBC, many workers are finding common ground in O'Brien's quest to live the American dream by working hard, only to have some dimwitted boss try to away from under him by bringing back the old hire.
Anyone who has ever been laid off, been fired or had their talent underappreciated in an annual review knows what the redhead with the nickname Coco is going through.
O'Brien's open letter to "People of Earth" has an everyman ring to it. "My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work," he writes.
Other than a fair wage, that's what most employees want -- to have their work valued. Being called "chicken-hearted and gutless," as NBC executive Dick Ebersol did of jokes about Jay Leno by O'Brien and David Letterman, doesn't help, either.
The New York Times reports that tens of thousands of people, many who don't even watch "The Late Show," have Twittered, written on blogs and joined Facebook groups in support of O'Brien.
It's the kind of support that doesn't just come from being the new guy on the job. It comes from anyone who has ever felt undervalued at work after working for years at the same company.
Simon Dumenco, a columnist at Advertising Age, wrote recently of O'Brien "he's suddenly become an unlikely (Harvard-educated, multimillionaire) everyman: the freckled face of American job insecurity, a well-meaning hard worker who spent years paying his dues but has now been declared redundant by the halfwit overlords driving his company into the ground."
O'Brien is giving a voice to the unemployed during the worst recession in 25 years. In an economy when people will work overtime without pay so they can hold on to their jobs, it's refreshing to see an employee -- albeit a millionaire -- speak his mind about his bosses and not fear for his job. Or if there is any fear, at least O'Brien should have enough in the bank to make his next job search a lot easier.
The national unemployment rate is 10%. There are enough dissatisfied workers out there to take O'Brien's move to show his bosses where to go as a rallying cry to get up and demand something be done about getting people back to work in America. Who knew it would take a funny redheaded guy to start it?
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be found at www.AaronCrowe.net
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