Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 10, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

SUPERMARKET STRIKE....Supermarket workers are getting ready to strike here in Southern California. The supermarkets themselves have declined to talk about the deal they have on the table, so our only source of information is the unions:

Clerks and stockers earn as much as $17.90 an hour with fully paid family medical insurance. Many noted that they worked only part time and were lucky to put in as many as 30 hours a week.

"I can barely survive now," said Peter Morgan, who celebrated his 10th anniversary with Vons at a strike rally Thursday outside the Federation of Labor near downtown Los Angeles. Morgan, who manages a liquor department at a West Los Angeles store, said he worked 24 hours a week and earned about $12 an hour. "I have to borrow money from my friends sometimes just to make the rent," he said. "If they go through with this, I don't know what I'll do."

According to the union, proposed cuts in benefits could force workers to pay as much as 50% of the cost of medical visits, prescription drugs and hospital stays. The contract offer also would freeze wages for the first two years of the agreement, with a raise of as much as 30 cents an hour for the third year, and cut premium pay for nights, Sundays and holidays.

Note the phrasing: "as much as" $17.90 an hour, as if that was a king's ransom. But that's the absolute maximum, and even if you work full time that only comes to $37,000 a year. It's not exactly high living if you're trying to support a family, and most supermarket workers make much less.

These jobs, of course, are not under pressure from overseas. What they are under pressure from is Wal-Mart. Too bad federal law makes it virtually impossible to unionize a company that doesn't want to be unionized, isn't it?

And one more thing, even though you're probably tired of hearing me say it. Management apparently wants to freeze wages and cut healthcare benefits because of the tough economy they're facing. One question: is management planning to treat itself the same way?

Kevin Drum 7:08 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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