In “A Strike Against All Sense,” (Daily Nexus, Nov. 26) Ben Coffee and Brad Hubbard reflect the logic, sophistication and sensitivity of Scientologists on a caffeine binge. I resent their statement, “We chose not to honor the greedy picket lines,” for its malice toward the strikers.
The people on the picket lines are not striking for more money. They are striking to keep what they have and avoid being crushed by the obscenity of health costs. Coffee and Hubbard demean the grocery store employees by implying that the work they do does not warrant the wages they earn.
Working in a supermarket is not a glamorous job. The public can be extremely difficult and demanding. Grocery workers are expected to maintain an environment that is safe, familiar, clean and friendly. It’s not as complicated as assembling the tiles on the space shuttle, but someone has to make sure that thousands of items are kept in order for the hundreds of shoppers that flow through the store every day.
However, neither the job nor its scope is the real issue. In America, the worker has become the enemy. He is considered a liability and a burdensome expense. Coffee and Hubbard claim that $9.20 an hour is a living wage in California. That amounts to $368 a week before taxes. What planet are these guys on? Are their daddies rich and their mammas good-lookin’? Where in California is $368 a week a living wage?
The wealthy always have a skewed perspective on what it takes the average person to get by. It’s very expensive to be poor. When a teacher gets a raise, it’s an insult. Usually, the raise amounts to 2-3 percent over time, as opposed to the CEO of a medium-sized corporation, who gets sinfully more with no two-year wait for the extra $30 a month.
Coffee and Hubbard resent the workers receiving double time on Sunday and triple time on holidays. So do the stores. I wonder if they would accept working or straight time on a Sunday or holiday. Christmas, Super Bowl Sunday and Thanksgiving are just as important to the “can stackers” as anyone else. If they work on those days, they probably need the extra cash, and the store needs them there.
Many of the strikers I spoke with are single moms who have been with their respective companies a long time, many 15 years or more. Let’s assume that after taxes, mom brings home $600 a week, or $2400 a month. That average two-bedroom apartment in the area is between $1200 and $1500 a month. That leaves approximately $1000 a month for car payment and insurance, food, clothing, entertainment, gas, utilities, etc. Any unforeseen emergency could send such a family to the shelter.
Coffee and Hubbard claim that the supermarket workers should be paid as much as fast food workers – $7 an hour. If McDonald’s employees could organize, I bet they would be paid more. No one can live on that wage, at least not for long. These two guys also made the claim that they were liberal – a disturbing thought.
As university students, we are among the elite. Most of the world would give anything to be where we are right now. There are among us future policy makers, artists and visionaries. What are we going to do to improve the lives of those who need help? Not everyone is an academic or entrepreneur. We all but forget about Ken Lay, Enron, WorldCom and their like; they shattered the lives of thousands of hardworking people. Yet we read about resentments directed at some hardworking people that want to keep their $7-an-hour job with healthcare. In one of his fables, Aesop said, “If a man steals a loaf of bread, they put him in prison. If he absconds with the whole bakery, they elect him to high office.”
Frank Ferrante is a senior history major.