Mini Employment Boom

All of a sudden I’m seeing “help wanted” signs popping up.  At least three local employers are advertising that they are accepting applications.  There’s one minor drawback.  The job is temporary, and it will require crossing a picket line.  With the grocery workers voting to authorize a strike Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons are all looking for potential replacement workers.  Albertsons is advertising a $10 an hour wage for inexperienced clerks, $13 an hour for experienced workers.

The grocery workers have been working without a contract since March and the stumbling block, from what I read in the news, appears to be a requirement for workers to pay an additional $9 a week for individual health coverage and another $23 to cover their families.  Grocery workers currently have very generous health coverage. Workers hired before 2004 pay nothing for health insurance while those hired later pay either $7 a week for single coverage or $15 a week for family coverage.  If I reach the point where I am eligible for health insurance at my current job I will pay over $110 a week ($442 a month) for family coverage – or over 4 times what the grocery store workers are being asked to pay.

Of course many workers – courtesy clerks (baggers) for instance – don’t make much more than minimum wage and the increased health costs may be a real hardship for some.  But with so many people out of work I’d think twice about walking away from my job.  There are plenty of people who are desperate for work.  Desperate enough to cross a picket line.

Post-script 9/19/11 – The strike has been averted.  The union and grocery stores have come to an agreement described as a ‘win-win’.  No need for temporary workers, no need to cross picket lines, no income for the unemployed who filled out applications and have been waiting the past 3 weeks to see if they might have work.

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18 Responses to Mini Employment Boom

  1. USAF Wench says:

    Regarding the lifeguard pay (I’m guessing this is from Glenn Beck), the numbers referred to were total compensation, not salary, and included overtime.

    This is a common rant about any union member; they are figures for total compensation. What makes union pay look like such an outrage is the simple fact that non-unionized pay is so much worse than it used to be.

    You also can’t lay all the responsibility for Detroit’s downturn on the unions. After all, their overseas competitors had government-funded health care, didn’t design production lines that took >24 months to retool, used our very own Deming processes for quality control, and designed cars that people wanted.

    • Nancy says:

      It didn’t come from Glenn Beck, it came from my paycheck! I live in one of the communities that pays life guards that much. Yes, they may work overtime but their base pay is $150K, plus very good benefits. All the communities in southern Cal just kept raising public salaries and benefits. Now that fewer people are paying taxes (no work; foreclosures), it has come to light that the deals for public employees were too sweet, and the pensions they were promised are not funded (and those that were funded may have lost value in the stock market).

      I do not have a 90% guaranteed pension that I didn’t have to pay one cent into like they do, and I have to pay a larger portion of my health insurance than they do. If you think that is fair, then you can support the life guard’s union. If you think union grocery stores are better than non-union ones, then support the strike (but I really don’t get how you can do that as you can’t cross the picket line yet shopping at a non-union store doesn’t support the union either).

  2. maja says:

    Workers of the world Unite!

    Good luck to the strikers, but I’ll be surprised if they win. Wage slaves is what we all are.

  3. jz says:

    Unions Good? Just look what they did for the auto industry.

  4. snow says:

    Millions of part-time workers do not get holiday, sick leave, benefit, etc. And we are going to unionized them any time soon. We have to accept the fact that time has changed. State and government laws are supposed to protect workers, not the union any more.

  5. Jerry says:

    People who are down on unions are ignoring the history of what it was like before there were unions. For the vast majority of workers, there were no benefits, no weekends, no sick time, no safety regulations, virtually no limits on what a boss could make you do…or do TO you. Even if you’re not in a union yourself, any benefits you get are a result of union workers fighting for them inch by inch. In many cases they lost their lives.

    When a union goes on strike, it is taking a huge risk. It is risking the destruction of the company itself and of all the workers’ jobs. So unions rarely strike, and hardly ever for frivolous reasons. $9 + $23 per week may sound like peanuts, but it’s $1,664.00 per year. And management has failed to renew their agreement for five months.

    If I were starving or had no work at all, I would cross a picket line. For a temp job when I was already working part-time? Probably not. But I don’t have kids to feed.

    • Nancy says:

      Originally unions were for safety. Mine workers, factory workers. Businesses had ‘company towns’ and mine workers could never get out of the cycle.

      Unions are now different. Do I think NFL players need a union to protect them? Maybe, but they should pay for it themselves with their million dollar salaries. Do nurses and teachers and policemen have protection with unions? Absolutely, but should anyone working in public jobs have million dollar pensions and top of the line insurance all paid for by taxpayers? It’s fine if that’s what people want but they need to realize what they are agreeing to when the contracts are signed. We have lifeguards making $150K per year plus they will have 90% pensions when they retire at age 50. Can we afford that?

      I have no problem crossing picket lines for grocery workers. There are laws that protect working conditions and safety. We have decided, as a country, not to have socialize health insurance or paid sick days or some other benefits that other countries have decided to provide, so grocery owners don’t have to provide those benefits. The non-union grocery stores are not dangerous to work in, they don’t make the workers hand over part of their checks for housing or force them to work 80 hour weeks. If the unions at the grocery store was busted, nothing would change. Workers at the union stores complain about the same things as those at non-union places and non-union stores and workers hash out the differences.

      I work at a government office where there is a union but it is optional to join. It would cost me about $100/mo to join, with no additional benefit to joining. Some unions spend almost all the dues on political lobbying, yet fight having to pay into their own pensions or pay any of their own health care costs. I pay into my own pension. I pay a portion of my health care. Why shouldn’t union members?

  6. zelda says:

    I would not cross a picket line to work or shop. I have seen non-union workers get treated like crap by their companies. No matter why they are on strike, I would not cross.

    • Rosa says:

      Unless I was desperate, me either.

      I don’t understand the folks who are all “people don’t deserve what they have, or what they can get!”

      Higher wages for other people are a standard your employer looks at when they decide how much to pay you, and so are higher benefits. There’s no reason to begrudge other working people good pay and benefits.

  7. Corey says:

    Many of the unions in our nation are completely out of touch. Look at the Teacher’s unions, and the autoworkers. If you want the money for working there, than good for you for going an getting that job.

  8. maryann says:

    Wow, I’ve been following your blog for a while and today i came across another very inspirational story that reminded me of you and thought you might also enjoy it. Also an opportunity to” Breakover” with your own story… http://video.aol.com/aolvideo/aol-originals/breakover-alice/1125930017001

  9. I know a short comment won’t change anyone’s mind, but the power is all in the hands of employers most of the time. Union solidarity helped workers. Not enough of us are in unions right now for the unions to have much power to fight for the rights of working people…

    I don’t cross picket lines and would not apply for a job acting as a scab.

  10. Jeannette says:

    I don’t know, I guess if I really needed work and an opportunity arose that allowed me a few weeks of work then yes I would cross. My family’s needs come first, my husband is union but that doesn’t alway mean I agree with the reason they are striking. My husband has to work so many hours a year to have health benefits, which come out of his salary. If he doesn’t make the required hours we get bumped to a lower level of benefits, this year we have no dental and not eye care, and we have co pays now, I am still blessed as I have some form of health care, but if work doesn’t get back on track we could be bumped down again, which will mean no doctors visits or pharmacy. I am thinking of getting a part time retail job for the holiday’s though as I would like to get some money in the emergency fund

  11. Denise says:

    I’d cross a picket line in a heartbeat, as am employee or customer. I am not a fan of unions. I agree with striking if it is a case of protecting employee safety, but not over having to pay more for benefits.

  12. Lynn says:

    Last time they struck, it went on a long time, customers learned to use Trader Joes, Scolari’s, and Gelsons instead and many never came back to the big chain stores. Lose-lose situation for the striking employees and the stores. Even less sympathy now that times are so hard. I can only wish they had made a different choice. AT least the temp workers have some cash coming in, some experience accruing and some chance of re-starting unemployment afterward if it has run out.

  13. snow says:

    Although I don’t need to apply for a job but I don’t see anything wrong about crossing the picket line. The fact is people still need to shop and be served.
    I don’t want to drvie another 3 miles to get my grocery. The workers has the right to strike but customers have the right to shop too. And that is why we need the temporary workers to fill the gap.

  14. Becky R says:

    Not sure I would want to cross a pick it line for a temporary job.

    I think the workers have to strike if the union says they do. That is a tough position to be in, if you strike you may lose your job if you don’t you may wish you did due to co workers attitudes.

    So far my business’s (I do childcare in my home and in others; and I clean homes and offices) are still going well. Of course I have to work about 70 hours a week combined, but I have no childcare costs and am with my boys most of the time.

    Times are hard (as you know) for almost everyone in the USA, but I believe there is a reason. We will learn from this and grow from this.

  15. I would never cross a picket line! I do not even go to my grocery store when they strike. You would be labeled as a scab if you worked there. That might affect present or future employment even if you were never aware of intended consequences.

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