I have worked in the grocery industry for 24 years. Having learned the basic skills at customer service, proper ordering, stocking and rotating shelves, produce and dairy, I consider myself skilled at my job and feel that the hard work that I put in (It has gotten twice as intensive the past five years) justifies a liveable wage. In addition, I am the Union Shop Steward for my store, and am well aware of the philosophies, guidelines, and objectives of the local union Local 7 in Colorado. With my position, I am uniquely positioned to see the pros and cons of each differing philosophy between corporate business, store management, union politics, and day to day union concerns.
Times are tough, now. Walmart is going to open 22-30 Grocery Stores which are non union shops here in Colorado within the next year or two. 4 will open in April. The union, of course, wants to picket them, but I feel that the deal is already done...these smaller stores are violating no zoning laws and everyone is quite sure that my company, safeway, may become the first casualty of such a grocery war. Yet as a 52 year old diabetic who is half as strong as a younger man, I feel that I wont be able to compete with the eager new labor coming in. I DO feel that my best chance at fighting this rests with staying with the union...there is always power in numbers ---only problem is they are not very smart as a group. Everybody is out for themselves...you should see the politics and scrambling for position as everyone in the company braces for near certain layoffs. Union wages are what saves a middle class of consumers, however...nobody can help the economy (apart from wealthy stockholders) much by making $8.00 an hour...especially with inflation being factored in. I am open to ideas concerning this grim economic situation.
Republicans crow about creating jobs, but what good are minimum wage jobs in todays economic dynamic?
Why would you assume there wasn't? Are families not important enough to consider when calculating living cost that you should only factor in people with no children?
Sure they are. But if we are considering them, then we need to consider the income from every member of the family.
Of course there are certain families where more than one member works.
If you and your significant other had kids, for example...could both of you work? Who would care for the kids??
* If a household had two or three able bodied workers, does that still excuse the fact that minimum wage jobs are helping stockholders and business owners at the expense of the workers?
There are several wages paid at safeway. The workers who are department leads and head clerks usually get 40 hours and a liveable wage. There are many part time workers, and the new ones receive minimum wage and are given more hours. The older workers, part time such as myself, are often given less hours.
My point is that the corporations are whining that they must compete with other non union corporations, where the top wages often never exceed ten dollars an hour....which factored for inflation is essentially a minimum wage ten years ago. Health care has doubled for us in the past six months.
Some say the market determines the value of labor. This surely helps jars "guests" but does little for the lifetime residents of the US village.
Unions may say that the workers should unite and argue for their own value. Corporations by and large will seek only the lowest common denominators whenever possible.
I suppose that my argument is that US corporations care only for their bottom line and not for the integrity of the worker. They would argue that as long as people are willing to work for scraps, scraps are not a bad thing.
Granted there are many cons to unionism. It is a front for liberal politics and special interests. The union leaders make decent salaries. The fact that tips my argument, however, is the wage disparity between union shops and non union shops.
Why do you hate American workers so much? Why do you love your corporate overlords more than your fellow man?
Like I said before, I try and see how all sides think on these issues. A business quite naturally seeks competitive bids on labor costs...which is why many businesses relocated overseas, where labor costs are less. I don't like seeing labor reduced to simply a line item expense, with no loyalty (for US workers) favoritism, or preference factored in. The cold reality of global competition is one of the major downsides to a free market system.
As a group, we safeway workers have learned more skills about other jobs in the store, worked harder and harder each year, and agreed to wage increases lower than what we wanted.
We believe that our skills are competitive...indeed, the company has been unsuccessful at attracting many new workers who want to stay around very long.
What worries me is the fact that the corporation may simply decide to pull out of the Colorado market, sell off the stores, and relocate to God knows where. Corporations have no conscience except to their own...and their own are usually upper management as opposed to lower labor.
Where's the honor in forcing someone pay you more than minimum wage for something as superfluous as bagging groceries?
I guess you dont seem to contemplate the math. Twenty years ago, people made $4.00 an hour for bagging groceries. Factoring for inflation, they would be making $10.00 an hour today. They only make $8.00 however. If you go any lower than that, you dont even have enough money for the bus pass to get to work. (Or the gasoline for your car) My point is that you cant expect people ---except maybe any teenagers humble enough to do so--to work for such low amounts of money. This is not Indonesia, after all.
The courtesy clerks do a lot more than simply bag groceries. They push endless rows of buggies strewn all over the lot back in to the store, 8 at a time. They help bring new product up from the back of the store and refill all of the endcaps and depleted shelves. They wash the bathrooms which can become quite nasty at times, and they empty all of the stores garbage. They work as hard as any fast food worker does..as for Checkers, we too work quite hard. We no longer sit like a statue at our registers, but we help stock, restock produce and Dairy, and move and relocate displays. The starting wage for checkers is $9.50 an hour, which is no fortune is this economy unless you live in a trailer in the Appalachians.
Many, many people are looking for good customer service nowadays. They will even spend a few extra dollars for good customer service.
This is one of safeways strong points...or was before they started cutting labor so drastically.
I am a good judge of employee effectiveness. The best employees are self motivated, hard and diligent workers, great with customer service, and punctual at work. They also get along well with management. The union, in contrast, often attracts whiners who believe that life has been unfair to them.
The fact of the matter is, people aren't paid based on what the company makes due to their contribution. They're paid the least amount that the company can get away with. That's why minimum wages need to be in place, to make sure the companies aren't gouging workers.
I agree totally. This whole idea that a company will pay any more than they can get away with is fantasy for the most part.
As far as the income generated by the employee, keep in mind that not all employees generate income directly. Take a custodian for example. People expect clean bathrooms, right? If they are not clean, customer dissatisfaction rises.
How can the income generated by any given employee be calculated?
What all of this side chatter has to do with my original topic is unclear. My basic point is that labor unions help keep some of us longtime workers in the lower echelon of the middle class rather than struggling our entire lives in entry level minimum wage jobs that few people...teenagers included...want to work at. My point is that we voters need to save these union rights, for it keeps Americas middle class from falling as a victim to global competition.
Why should anyone, especially the rich and the poor, care one lick about 'Americas middle class'?
I personally couldn't care less what happens to the middle class.
First of all, just about all of us at EvC are in this middle class you so eagerly trash. You may be the only one who self classifies himself as poor. (Yet your ambition, economically, would take you also to the middle class.)
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class.
The common measures of what constitutes middle class vary significantly between cultures. In urban India, for example, a family is considered middle class if it resides in an owner-occupied property. In the United States and Canada many families where the primary income-earner is employed in a white collar job are considered part of the middle class. Moreover, most North Americans would take issue with a definition of middle-class which excluded the working class, i.e. 'classic Weberian'. (Hard work is generally held in high honour, fairness and equality are common law, and the North American economy was built upon traditionally labour intensive industries.)
In February 2009, The Economist announced that over half the world's population now belongs to the middle class, as a result of rapid growth in emerging countries. It characterized the middle class as having a reasonable amount of discretionary income, so that they do not live from hand to mouth as the poor do, and defined it as beginning at the point where people have roughly a third of their income left for discretionary spending after paying for basic food and shelter. This allows people to buy consumer goods, improve their health care, and provide for their children's education.
Thus, you would be middle class, Jon. You most certainly are not a street urchin. This group of people are what drives the economy. They are not too poor to spend 1/3 of their income as discretionary.
Basically, what you have done is highlight a large part of the problem. The poor are fighting the middle class. We in essence are fighting ourselves, rather than fighting the rich. It is the rich who own or control 80+% of every asset. For a revolution that tears down the very structure of what people aspire to become economically, pitting people against people in a competitive dog eat dog matrix, chaos can only result.
I too would be bitter at the middle class if they came along and tossed me out of their ranks...forcing me to a street corner where I may just pick up a gun and start shooting them!!
And in case you wonder why I would do such a thing? Because my family worked hard to get where we are....clinging to some respectability. We dont do poor well. I can but taste a bit of what causes the revolutions overseas. People are tired of being given no respect for the hard work they have done their whole lives.