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December 13, 2003

Day 63

Despite the fact that I think it's fairly hopeless for the unionists, I'm not completely without sympathy. Since the spousal unit has decided not to cross picket lines, I've kept away from the struck supermarkets. Until tonight.

I've been out of work for four months myself, until Monday. In my case, misery loves company, but not miserable company. Who wants to be around such a desparate situation? Starving, grumbling strikers trying to put a brave face on standing around makeshift bonfires in the cold winter evenings; furtive and disorganized scabs in crusty civies struggling with produce codes at the register. I'd much rather be at Trader Joe's where everyone is happy, but I couldn't afford it.

I had these and other reasons not to be shopping at the overpriced and luxurious supermarkets. Instead I've been shopping at the utilitarian Smart & Final, the randy 99 Cent store and the positively Second World Food 4 Less, not to mention more 7-11s than someone raised Episcopalian is comfortable admitting. But tonight I have money in my pocket and a daughter's birthday party to supply. Nothing would keep me from Albertson's this time. So breaking this fast this evening this was quite an occasion for more than one reason.

The first thing that struck me was the liquor aisle. I can't remember the last time I picked up a sixpack for no reason at all. There was Mike's Hard Lemonade, Red Dog, Grolsh, and behind me on the facing shelf were more brands of imported vodka than I could name or pronounce. It was very much like an immigrant experience; all this excess plenty.

On the way out, however, was the moment I hadn't expected to hear. The two young women with their signs didn't glare malevolently as I expected. One was saying, "I just want to get back to work. I can't hold out any longer. I guess that means the market wins."

The market wins.

Posted by mbowen at December 13, 2003 01:09 AM

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Tracked on March 15, 2005 12:17 PM


"The market wins."

But of course. What did these people expect? Let's face it, working in a supermarket isn't exactly the most skill-intensive of jobs (I should know, having had to do it in the course of this IT recession), and it's ridiculous to expect to be able to extract outsize concessions for a job that almost anybody can do. I sure as hell wouldn't pay above the going rate to hire a checkout clerk if I were running a store of my own.

The bottom line is that profits have to come from somewhere, investment capital is finite, and any business that is making sub-par profits lives under the threat of closure. If these workers were to be granted the concessions they desire, the costs would be born not by their employers, whose shareholders wouldn't stand for a drop in profitability, but by consumers just like you, as the supermarkets passed the increased costs down to their customers in the form of more expensive goods. Left-wing rhetoric aside, there is no genuine community of interests between consumers as a whole and the employees of any particular retail outlets.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite at December 14, 2003 04:32 PM