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:

Fallout

I posted Class Struggle on Avenue A on November 11 at 15:29. Twenty minutes later, a founding member of No 7-Eleven NYC wrote on his blog:

    NO711 is headed towards a racially divided face-off […]
    At a meeting with the NO711 group in June, I let the group
    know that I didn’t want to be involved…

I commend him for this action. Not so much leaving the group, which happened back in June, in any case, but for making it public. I had a feeling that my post would bring us back into contact, and when it did, I already had my reply ready: to preserve your self-respect, publicly divorce yourself from the group. I did not expect him to beat me to the punch.

Meanwhile, no other blog has picked up on this. The N7E blog says nothing about it, not even a fare-thee-well. And EV Grieve, who’s written about them 38 times this year (maybe more, if any of the posts are missing the “No 7-Eleven” tag), is also silent about it. Likewise with The Villager, another of their cheerleaders.

Am I the only one who thinks this is newsworthy?

***

As regular readers of Quilas know, N7E has been gathering outside the 7-Eleven on Avenue A every Sunday afternoon since the store opened, calling for a boycott. While researching “Class Struggle…”, I came across a comment of his, that I used in another context elsewhere:

fallout-boycott-useless

I’m starting to wonder to what degree he was pushed out?

***

Speaking of The Villager, they ran a story last week called “Small shops already feeling the crunch from 7-Eleven”.

    Although 7-Eleven is a cheaper alternative to traditional mom-and-pop stores, the majority of local residents The Villager recently polled about the new store agreed with No 7-Eleven. They said they would rather preserve the small businesses in the area than save money.

“[T]he majority of local residents The Villager recently polled” were the twelve people standing outside the store holding signs!

If you’re going to argue against large corporations like 7-Eleven, or Wal*Mart, you can’t use the argument that their prices are lower, unless of course your audience has a higher discretionary income. When has The Villager ever run an article titled: “Small stores gouge customers with higher prices”?

Their article ran with a chart bearing the title “Can a bodega compete with 7‑Eleven?” (What do they think competition is?!) I revised it, below:

price-chart''

For the record, I checked these prices today, as I did my Thanksgiving shopping. Carnation Evaporated Milk, 12 oz can, 10 for $10! Do bodegas even have evaporated milk?

Quilas Meets Save the Lower East Side

“You look a lot like… oh, never mind.”

“East Village” Ideology

The “East Village” has always more of an idea than a location, since the days when this northern part of the Lower East Side was first renamed, and that idea is petite bourgeois to the core. I knew this was true, but until I started receiving replies to Saving the Lower East Side?, I didn’t realize how deeply entrenched it was. This is a post that examines, from the workers’ perspective, a small business in the neighborhood that was offered as a model for future use of retail space. At first the piece sat silently, but then the owner of that business wrote and claimed ownership of the information in the piece, and requested I remove it.

I’m not going to recount the arguments here (you can read it in the Comments section of the above-mentioned piece), I just want to say that once he claimed ownership of the information obtained through an interview with one of the workers in the company, opinion shifted to his side. This is what surprised me. If it were simply that the owner of the company requested I remove the piece, I wouldn’t be writing this, and I wouldn’t have altered the piece the way I did. It was that friends of mine were siding with him against the workers at the company, whom I felt could only benefit by the information.

I have to say that even I felt as if I was doing something wrong by not removing the piece. But instead of just cravenly acquiescing the way SLES did:
rob-stupid-naive
I had to examine why I felt this way.

    The ultimate condition of production is the reproduction of the conditions of production. The tenacious obviousness … of the point of view of production alone, or even of that of mere productive practice … are so integrated into our everyday ‘consciousness’ that it is extremely hard, not to say almost impossible, to raise oneself to the point of view of reproduction. 1

How does this ideology reproduces itself? It’s everywhere. It’s the focus of news blog articles and editorials, it’s the focus of portraits of local residents, it’s represented in the goals of “community” organizations, it’s in the mythology of the “East Village” artist. There’s almost nowhere that it isn’t! Here are a few ways, off the top of my head.

Of course, the most obvious sources of reproduction are newspapers. This week’s edition of The Villager has this story:

pb-villager-headline1

It’s not so surprising that a small business should feature a story about mayoral candidates defending small businesses, but none of these are surprising.

***

A regular feature on the blog of photographer James Maher, and reproduced on EV Grieve, is called “Stories From the East Village”. It features profiles of PB locals. This is the list of occupations held by each, since the series began:

Singer / Songwriter English as Second Language Teacher, Retired
Construction Worker Piano Tuner
Coney Island Circus Performer Stratospheric Coloratura and Performance Artist
Owner, Surma — The Ukrainian Shop Social Worker, Retired
Owner, Continuum Cycles and Bike Shop, Continuum Coffee Electrical Contractor, Marine
Factory Worker Cartoon Artist
Speech Pathologist, Dancer/Dance Teacher Musician
Street Artist Actor
Stay-at-home Mother, Medical Assistant Landlord (Miami)
Designer, Argentine Tango Dance Organizer Photographer
Student, Employee at Zaragoza Environmental Engineering Marketing and Communications
Dominatrix Actress/Model
Owner, Cafecito Clothing Designer
Senior Minister,
Middle Collegiate Church
Nurse, Waiter, Retired
Public Relations, Curator, Bartender Doorman, Retired
Tattoo Artist, Owner Fineline Tattoo Caretaker, Student
Musician (Flute and Bass), The Flute Mistress of Epic Doom Metal Artist, Fashion Consultant
Musician, Artist, Producer Painter
Musician and Dog Walker Deliveryman
Musician, Barista

 

***

There is an online petition that originated in the “East Village,” that is meant to be presented to the New York City Planning Commission and City Council. Apart from making a number of specious claims, it calls for:

    … the City Planning Commission and the City Council to amend the city’s zoning text to require that no corporate formula store or bank open a new location without approval from the local community board. Such a zoning amendment will not only allow communities to restrict the number and location of chain stores, but also allow community boards to negotiate legally binding stipulations on all elements of chain store character from signage and closing hours to wage scale.
    [Emphasis mine. -Quilas]

***

And of course everything ever written by No 7-Eleven NYC! When I first started writing about them, I used the term “small business group” to describe them. It was not entirely accurate, but I was couching my terms then. Just swap in “petite bourgeois” for “small business group” and everything will make sense. It’s what I was trying to say anyway, without alienating my more sensitive readers.

***

That’s a very cursory look at some of the ways the dominant ideology is reproduced locally. I intend to write more on this topic in the coming weeks. Hopefully, they won’t all take as long as this one did to complete!

=-=-=-=-=

1 Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

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?