Oh Boy… Right Again

I met this guy – and he looked like he might have been a hat check clerk at an ice rink. Which, in fact, he turned out to be. And I said: Oh boy. Right again.

It’s funny how some things stay with you forever.

Back in February of this year I wrote:

    It’s ridiculous that this effort is hailed as being in the “spirit of the East Village”. People in the “East Village” organized to demand jobs, to demand affordable housing, to stop evictions. … I can’t wait until the “spirit of the East Village” is invoked to oppose increases in the minimum wage!

Well, no spirits were invoked, but the position has been staked by the writer of the blog Save The Lower East Side:

sles-contra-minwage-1

I don’t feel like responding to it now. It’s enough that it happened. I’ll just leave you with Laurie Anderson:

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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?

Bodegas

When I first started this blog, one of the topics I wanted to write about was Working — working conditions, pay, and unemployment, primarily — on the large scale as well as local. It seems I’ve been doing this for a while now without even realizing it!

I came across some information recently, while writing No 7-Eleven NYC, Labor, and “Free Markets”, from the National Employment Law Project, a national advocacy organization for employment rights of lower-wage workers, to quote their web site. Some of this restates what I wrote already, except it focusses on violations of the law instead of exemptions from it, and is more specific to food stores:

    The grocery and supermarket industry is divided into three main segments:

    1. Green grocers, bodegas & delis sell fresh produce, dry and prepared foods, and household items. They are small stores and often family-run.
    2. Gourmet grocers are the fastest-growing industry segment and are defined by luxury products (including health food and organic food) and a high-income consumer base. Stores are mid-sized and often owned by chains, although some have independent owners.
    3. Supermarkets are larger, carry a wider range of products, and are often owned by chains. Historically, this segment has had higher union density and job quality, though both have been declining because of non-union competition.

    Wages and working conditions vary by industry segment and by the degree of unionization. The most unregulated stores are green grocers, bodegas and delis – margins are razor thin, wages are low, and workplace violations are chronic.

    Immigrants make up about two-thirds of the workforce, and increasingly hail from Latin America and especially Mexico. Many find jobs through friends and family already working in a store that is hiring. But some employers advertise in ethnic newspapers, and green grocers frequently hire workers through storefront employment agencies. Bodegas rely heavily on family members, who put in very long shifts.

    In our interviews, non-union grocery jobs were widely considered the least desirable of employment options. While the jobs are easy to get, requiring little English or previous training, they are exploitative and dead-end (“There’s only one type of job,” as a bodega owner put it). Turnover is high across all segments, although workers may stay in the industry for several years because there are few alternatives.

    INDUSTRY SEGMENTS WHERE WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS ARE COMMON
    • Green grocery stores, bodegas and delis (violations are prevalent).
    • Gourmet grocers/health food stores (violations are frequent).
    • Non-union supermarkets (common violations in some occupations).
    THE JOBS WHERE WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS ARE COMMON
    • Occupations – Occupations most impacted include cashiers, stock clerks, deli counter workers, food preparers, delivery workers, janitors, baggers, produce washers/watchers, and flower-arrangers.
    • Typical wages – Green grocery, bodega, and deli workers: $250-300 per week is typical. Produce washers and food preparers earn between $4 and $5 per hour.
    • Typical hours – Hours average 55-75 hours per week in green grocery stores; 40-60 hours per week in gourmet grocery stores; and 40-60 hours per week in non-union supermarkets.
    • Payment method – Workers are largely paid in cash at green grocery stores, with the exception of occasional cashiers and family members of the owners. Gourmet grocers and supermarkets generally pay on the books, though at least a few workers are always paid in cash.
    • Benefits – Health benefits and vacation and sick days are rare in non-union stores.
    THE WORKERS MOST AFFECTED BY WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS
      Workforce is almost exclusively immigrant, from Mexico, Central America, Korea, Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia. Delivery workers are mostly African immigrants. With the exception of cashier jobs, most occupations are male dominated. Ages range from the teens through the 40s.

      Green grocery and delivery workers are often undocumented. Some undocumented workers in gourmet grocery stores and supermarkets.

    INTERMEDIARIES PLACING WORKERS IN UNREGULATED JOBS
      Storefront employment agencies are frequently used, especially for off-the-books jobs, charging the workers $100-$300 per placement, or $10 for a day job.
    COMMON WORKPLACE VIOLATIONS
    • Minimum wage – Violations are pervasive in green grocery stores, bodegas and delis. Workers commonly put in 60-72 hours per week, often resulting in hourly wages below the minimum. For example, a worker paid $300 per week for 60 hours will earn $5 per hour (without considering time-and-a half-pay for overtime hours). The worst jobs can be paid as little as $2.50 an hour. Similar violations are found in gourmet stores, but are somewhat less pervasive. Violations in non-union supermarkets are concentrated in the most vulnerable occupations (baggers, delivery workers).
    • Overtime – Green grocery stores rarely pay overtime. Gourmet grocery stores may selectively pay overtime (e.g. after six months, or for more skilled workers). Non-union supermarkets often violate overtime laws for baggers and delivery workers.
    • Meal breaks – Meal breaks are erratic, and green grocery workers in particular can work up to 14-hour days without a meal break. Delivery workers typically do not get meal breaks and have to eat on the job.
    • Employer taxes – When employers pay in cash, they very rarely pay required taxes.
    • OSHA – Chemical and pesticide exposure is a serious issue for workers handling sprayed produce, with few safeguards or training by employers. Stockers do not receive mandated training on lifting and moving.
    • Workers’ Compensation – Smaller employers do not carry workers’ compensation, and across segments, workers rarely receive it when injured on the job.
    • Discrimination – Workers report hiring, firing and promotion based on immigration status, ethnicity and relationship to owner, as well as harassment based on immigration status.
    • Retaliation and the right to organize – Workers report being threatened, intimidated and fired for bringing complaints or attempting to organize.

Another topic I plan to take up soon is working in restaurants. If you want to get a jump on things, check out this web site.

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Unregulated Work in the Grocery and Supermarket Industry in New York City