Saving the Lower East Side?

UPDATED 5/21/13 – 9:22PM

I completely reject the arguments made in the comments section. I did not need authorization to write this piece.

Nevertheless, as a gesture of good will, I will redact the name of the company that was used in the example.

***

UPDATED 5/18/13 – 10:06PM

I posted the original version of this piece in the morning of May 18. In the previous version, I based my [Company Name Redacted] figures on shifts of 6.5 hours each (13 hours/day ÷ 2). After I received the comment below, I rewrote it using the new information.

***

There is a blog called Save the Lower East Side (SLES), where one of the most nonsensical contributions to the Great 7‑Eleven Debate can be found. This blog is maintained by someone whom many of you will remember as employing questionable copying/pasting practices, described in Trouble in the “East Village”.

According to SLES, […]:

… employs 6 persons per weekday shift, 2 shifts, 10 people per shift weekends; total: 21 full time equivalent positions, all behind the counter (no waiters/tips) all $10/hr. The store is only half the size of a 7‑Eleven which employs only 7-10 positions per store, so […] employs 4 to 6 times (!) as many people as 7‑Eleven, and all at a higher pay scale (I asked the guys behind the counter themselves, so it’s not management BS).

[…] is open from 7am-8pm, seven days per week.

[…] shifts are 8-hours each. It includes clean up after hours and a three-hour overlap during the day.

Let me just say, they could have saved me a lot of time if they had provided this information in their initial post. It’s not like I have nothing better to do than rewrite a piece that took two days to complete!

So does the clean-up time make it a 9-hour, paid shift, or is it uncompensated? Is it reasonable to assume there’s a set-up hour too? I assume the length of time for set-up/clean-up is 1 hour; how long would it take 6 people to clean up anyway?

I also need to point out that SLES is not calculating Full-Time Equivalencies (FTEs) correctly. An FTE is calculated by dividing the number of total hours worked by the maximum number of compensable hours in a full-time schedule. The scale ranges between 0 and 1. A person who works 40 hours in a 40-hour week has an FTE of 1.0; a person who works 20 hours has an FTE of 0.5. So whatever this 21 figure is, it’s not an FTE.

So again, let’s see if we can figure this out. …:

Shift Number of
Workers
Hours/
Shift
Days/
Week
Worker-Hours/
Week
Mon-Fri, Shift 1 6 x 8 x 5 = 240
Mon-Fri, Shift 2 6 x 8 x 5 = 240
Sat-Sun, Shift 1 10 x 8 x 2 = 160
Sat-Sun, Shift 2 10 x 8 x 2 = 160
____
Total 800

Since we don’t know yet how many people will be working at 7‑Eleven, I’ll use their 7–10 worker range:

Shift Number of
Workers
Hours/
Shift
Days/
Week
Worker-Hours/
Week
Sun-Sat, 3 Shifts 7 x 8 x 7 = 392
Sun-Sat, 3 Shifts 10 x 8 x 7 = 560

But how do the two companies compare from the workers’ point of view, since that’s what this exercise is all about?

Location Worker-Hours/
Week
Hourly
Wage
Total Weekly Wages
[…] 800 x $10.00 = $8,000.00
7-Eleven, 7 Workers 392 x $8.44 = $3,308.48
7-Eleven, 10 Workers 560 x $8.44 = $4,726.40

Then:

7-Eleven, 7 Workers$3,308.48÷7=$472.64

Location Total Weekly Wages Number
of Workers
Average
Weekly Wage Per
Worker
[…] $8,000.00 ÷ 32 = $250.00
7-Eleven, 10 Workers $4,726.40 ÷ 10 = $472.64

So a worker at 7‑Eleven averages $472.64 per week and a worker at […] averages $250.00.

I’m sure there are some at […] who work more than the average of 25 hours and make more than the average amount of money, but for every dollar more one person makes, another makes less, all else being equal. This is assuming the figures SLES provided on the number of workers is accurate! I don’t want to have to re-write this again!

[…] puts more money into the wage pool, paying $8,000/week, compared with $3,308.48 or $4,726.40 per week for 7‑Eleven, but is this sustainable? Time will tell.

Now for Fresh&Co.:

I also looked at Fresh&Co, which is about the size of a 711: 20 people per shift, 2 shifts, including weekends, all behind-the-counter (no waiter/tips) and well over minimum wage (except the delivery guys — they get tips so the law exempts them from the minimum wage, like waiters). Total: 56 full time equivalnt positions, not counting delivery staff. It employs 5-8 times (!!) as a 7-Eleven.

First of all, Fresh&Co is a chain! They have five locations, with three more opening soon. What next, comparing 7‑Eleven to Chase?! Secondly, delivery guys and waiters are not exempt from the minimum wage, their employers are exempt from paying the regular minimum wage. But waiters and delivery guys are supposed to be paid a minimum wage of $5.00/hour. Frequently, they’re not.

Back to Fresh&Co. Since I don’t know what “well over minimum wage” is, then I can’t test SLES’s figures, but I know that 56 FTEs is still meaningless. If Fresh&Co has more workers at a higher rate, then good for them! Again, I never said 7‑Eleven was the best place to work. But in all their efforts to demonstrate how bad 7‑Eleven is, they finally had to compare it to another chain store before succeeding!

7-Eleven is actually one of the worst franchises from a labor/employment point of view.

That very well may be, but SLES has yet to demonstrated it. And it’s better, from the workers’ point of view, than anything they’ve offered in its place.

***

There is one possibility that I just now thought of, which is that “21 full-time equivalent positions” could mean 21 actual workers. Given SLES’s history of obfuscation on this matter, I would not be surprised. So I’ll suggest one more possibility:

Location Total Weekly Wages Number
of Workers
Average
Weekly Wage Per
Worker
[…] $8,000.00 ÷ 21 = $380.95

It’s still less than 7-Eleven.

***

One more thing: why were they not so forthcoming back when we were discussing bodegas? Where was their concern then, for the number of workers and their pay? What are their priorities?

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Miscategorizing Employees

A tweet I forwarded today reminded me of a problem I had a couple of years ago. The tweet was from Jobs With Justice:

I was laid off in October of 2008 from a company called Indigo Design. (Since that time, the owner underwent a nervous breakdown and the company is out of business). I had only worked there for six months, but prior to that had worked for another company long enough to qualify for unemployment benefits.

I applied for unemployment, accurately stating my most recent employer and the cause for my leaving, which was “lack of work”. Shortly afterwards I received the following email:

indigo_email

(You may notice that the Subject header is “Letter of Recommendation”. I wrote to him shortly after I was let go, requesting a letter of recommendation. I waited until I got it before submitting my unemployment claim, since I didn’t think I’d get one from him if he knew I was filing.)

I didn’t call him because I saw no reason to, and because I didn’t want to have to explain that the claim wasn’t against Indigo Design, but with New York State. Withdrawing my claim would put me in the position of not collecting what was owed me due to my previous work!

Anyway, a while later I received a letter from the Department of Labor stating that my claim was under review and that payments would be suspended until the time of its resolution. The reason was that my most recent employer stated that I was terminated for “lateness”, and not because of lack of work.

Unfortunately, the DOL was swamped with new claims, as it was the beginning of the mini-Depression, and employers were challenging these claims in record numbers. This went on for months, and finally I received their decision: they were accepting Indigo Design’s claim that I had been a contractor. As a result, my weekly check was $102 less than it would have been, but at least I was finally getting something.

Around this time I also received from the DOL a questionnaire to determine if I had actually been a contractor. I looked at it and could see that if I answered every question accurately, it would demonstrate beyond all doubt that I had been an employee and not a contractor. I didn’t fill it out and send it back because I knew if I did it would result in my claim being frozen again, and I had already gone for too long without money. I saved it though, with the intention of waiting until I had exhausted my benefits, and then sending it in. By that time, though, the owner had gone mad and the company was out of business, putting another half dozen or so people into the same position I had been in.

So, what is the lesson to be drawn by this? Don’t wait until you file for unemployment to challenge your boss’s misclassification of you. Take a look at the IRS page describing employees vs. contractors, and fill out the PDF if you think you’ve been misclassified.