October 15, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Labor Pains

I crossed a picket line today, and it felt great. In case you haven't heard, workers at our local Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons supermarkets are on strike because they aren't satisfied with largely unskilled cashier jobs that pay $18/hour plus lots of benefits. Can you tell I have little sympathy toward these thankless workers?

Employees at most retail establishments do the same kind of work as these grocery workers, but get paid less than half as much, often with no benefits. Thanks to union strong-arm tactics, grocery store employees are some of the highest paid workers in their industry—yet they seem to have little appreciation for their good fortune. Certainly, they're not willing to give an inch in a bad economy, when the company that writes their paychecks faces skyrocketing health care costs.

I have nothing against grocery store workers getting paid as much as they possibly can, and getting as many benefits as possible. I am currently forced to work two part-time jobs with no benefits, in addition to making as much extra money writing as possible, because I haven't been able to get hired on full-time. But I don't have a big labor union flexing its muscles behind me, so I have to accept my lot and do whatever I can to improve my situation.

So I probably don't support the strikers because I'm bitter and jealous that they have a union, right? No. I don't support them because they don't appreciate what they have, and because I feel that unions are anachronistic. The days of child labor and 18-hour workdays without overtime are long gone here in the U.S. Labor unions served a great purpose in our nation's history, but now they're just anti-business. It's noble to go on strike to protest working under dangerous conditions, but it's extortion to go on strike because you want your already-high wage increased even more.

In this still-weak economy, thousands of unemployed or underemployed workers would leap at the chance to earn the kind of money and benefits paid to these strikers, even under the proposed contract that they turned down. Then again, with that in mind, maybe this strike is a good thing. Many of those unemployed workers are indeed making that kind of money now (at least temporarily) as replacements, while those spoiled checkers and clerks stand for hours out in the sun without pay. Maybe there's some justice there after all. If nothing else, at least I found great sale prices and no checkout lines when I crossed that picket line today.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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October Columns:

10/31: Halloween's History
10/30: Good GDP, Still No Jobs
10/29: Disaster
10/27: Ash Monday
10/26: En Fuego
10/25: Diving in the Desert
10/24: Dead Car Canyon
10/23: Reflections
10/21: Le Métro
10/20: Pain
10/17: Jury Duty
10/15: Labor Pains
10/14: The Business of Losing
10/13: Owls and Jobs
10/12: Hooked
10/11: The "S" in SUV
10/9: Flee the City
10/8: Sore Losers
10/5: Turkeys
10/4: It's Not the Economy, Stupid
10/2: Focus
10/1: Twenty Years
Previous months in The Archive

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