Newspaper Blogs

October 10, 2003

SUPERMARKET STRIKE....Supermarket workers are getting ready to strike here in Southern California. The supermarkets themselves have declined to talk about the deal they have on the table, so our only source of information is the unions:

Clerks and stockers earn as much as $17.90 an hour with fully paid family medical insurance. Many noted that they worked only part time and were lucky to put in as many as 30 hours a week.

"I can barely survive now," said Peter Morgan, who celebrated his 10th anniversary with Vons at a strike rally Thursday outside the Federation of Labor near downtown Los Angeles. Morgan, who manages a liquor department at a West Los Angeles store, said he worked 24 hours a week and earned about $12 an hour. "I have to borrow money from my friends sometimes just to make the rent," he said. "If they go through with this, I don't know what I'll do."

According to the union, proposed cuts in benefits could force workers to pay as much as 50% of the cost of medical visits, prescription drugs and hospital stays. The contract offer also would freeze wages for the first two years of the agreement, with a raise of as much as 30 cents an hour for the third year, and cut premium pay for nights, Sundays and holidays.

Note the phrasing: "as much as" $17.90 an hour, as if that was a king's ransom. But that's the absolute maximum, and even if you work full time that only comes to $37,000 a year. It's not exactly high living if you're trying to support a family, and most supermarket workers make much less.

These jobs, of course, are not under pressure from overseas. What they are under pressure from is Wal-Mart. Too bad federal law makes it virtually impossible to unionize a company that doesn't want to be unionized, isn't it?

And one more thing, even though you're probably tired of hearing me say it. Management apparently wants to freeze wages and cut healthcare benefits because of the tough economy they're facing. One question: is management planning to treat itself the same way?

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 10, 2003 07:08 PM | TrackBack


As Nathan Newman has been known to point out, the problem is that so few self-identified modern "progressives" can imagine themselves actually reduced to having to be, oh ick, supermarket workers.

Events will correct this lapse in imagination.

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden at October 10, 2003 07:57 PM | PERMALINK

Grocery workers for Local 655 began a strike here in St. Louis on Monday. It's the same story. Small raise, you pay more of your health care costs, and oh, if your spouse's employer can cover you, then we won't cover him (or her).

Wal-Mart is partially responsible here as well.

I'm not sure what the story is in SoCal, but here in St. Louis, there are plenty of unionized grocery stores to shop at that aren't the "big three."

Straub's, Johnny's and several other grocers that use union workers have benefited from an aggressive campaign by Local 655 to send shoppers to their stores. Union pickets have been handing out bright yellow cards with the names, addresses and phone numbers of union-staffed grocery stores.

A delicious irony, and great for the little guys.

Posted by: Edge at October 10, 2003 07:58 PM | PERMALINK

Grocery is a relatively low-margin business, so management is probably right that they're being squeezed by health care costs. Tell me again why it'd be a disaster if we had single-payer?

Posted by: jimBOB at October 10, 2003 08:02 PM | PERMALINK

I agree. Business opposition to single payer is incomprehensible. They can't all be looking out for the insurance industry.

Posted by: mike at October 10, 2003 08:06 PM | PERMALINK

How would all of you feel if Management WAS willing to take similar cuts - a same proportional cut in benefits and wage freezes as the workers?

Posted by: TAD at October 10, 2003 08:45 PM | PERMALINK

Patrick Nielsen Hayden:

I am not sure I understand your post.

In pointing out a thought of Nathan Newman's, you write, "the problem is that so few self-identified modern "progressives" can imagine themselves actually reduced to having to be supermarket workers."

It seems to me that the problem is supermarkets owners are under pressure to improve their profits, supermarket workers are under pressure to make enough income to live, and those two pressures oppose each-other. What does what modern progressives think have to do with this problem? Are supermarket managers the modern progressives, perhaps? Please explain.

I like to think of myself as a progressive thinker, but I don't feel reduced. As it stands, I used to be an engineer, now I'm a guy in a truck that makes food-stuff deliveries to pizza shops. Unloading boxes of canned tomato sauce, and such.

Posted by: s at October 10, 2003 08:46 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I have a part time job at the local Wal-Mart and have had it for about 2 1/2 years now. I took it to earn some extra money to pay some bills, but I continue to work there because I work in the garden center and I like working with the plants,I pretty much choose my hours, and everyone leaves me alone. Here in Alabama starting pay at the Wal-Mart is generally $6.00 to $6.25/hr. with a 4 to 5% raise after 90 days and about the same percentage yearly on the employee's hire date. I have no idea how a family could live on this pay scale! Benefits are, at best, mediocre IF the employee is eligible. Wal-Mart has no problem with union customers, but no one dares mention the word around management!

Posted by: fred at October 10, 2003 08:48 PM | PERMALINK

At least there are more food banks around these days for all the non-union workers making $6 an hour. I'm not joking. That or food stamps.

If we took the average 'wage' of executives and reduced it so that it reflected the ratio of management to worker pay that existed 30 years ago, how much would we be able to raise workers' wages? Has anyone ever done that analysis?

Posted by: obe at October 10, 2003 09:00 PM | PERMALINK

I saw a spokesman -- woman, actually -- from the US Chamber of Commerce on the NewsHour a while back. She was some sort of specialist on health insurance and benefits. What surprised me was her willingness to say that employment-based health insurance just can't do the job. My impression was that single payer is really not off the table at all for them.

Posted by: SqueakyRat at October 10, 2003 09:36 PM | PERMALINK

How would all of you feel if Management WAS willing to take similar cuts - a same proportional cut in benefits and wage freezes as the workers?

What does this mean? Who is 'all of you'? Is this supposed to be sarcasm?

I, for one, would feel great. How come wages for "them" are a huge burden that must be reduced, but perqs and money for "us" are just the cost of doing business?

If that communist JP Morgan felt that management shouldn't earn more than 25 times the average worker's wage, then what's up with these fat pigs making 500 times as much? Are they 20 times better businessmen than old JP? (hint: no)

Posted by: craigie at October 10, 2003 09:57 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Edge,
No one in my house is crossing the picket line and it appears much of Saint Louis is respecting it. I haven't added the list to my site, but I will tomorrow.

The key point is that about 71% of the market share is by the three companies yet they claim Walmart is the problem. That would be fine, but they won't open up the books to Bob Kelly since the three chains claim that it isn't that they are losing money, but that they won't be 'as competitive'. Even more important, only Shop-N-Save employees are on strike, both Schnuck's and Dierberg's employees are locked out.

Posted by: ArchPundit at October 10, 2003 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

Many noted that they worked only part time
Why is that? I assumed it was to avoid paying benefits, but the rest of the quote makes it sound like they still get them. Does anybody know? The Safeway in my home town (where I worked for two years through high school) has gone to ALL part time workers. There is the store manager and one or two others full time and 80 some people part time. Why? Is it for flexibility? I believe that Safeway doesn't give benefits to part time workers (our union always sucked), but it still seems like it would be harder for management. No one wants to work two or three jobs, even if the hours are the same.
Good luck to the unions!

Posted by: Nathan at October 10, 2003 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

TAD: I would be shocked into insensibility. I can't recall an instance where it's ever happened before.

S: I think all Patrick means is that progrssives these days don't support unions enough because they can't imagine it will ever affect them personally. I'm not so sure that's the reason, but it's true that union support is not especially strong among liberals these days.

I think single payer healthcare is inevitable. As employers start to get out of the healthcare biz, other employers will be forced to do the same in order to stay competitive. When the number of uncovered people finally gets to 50% or so, the political pressure will become unbearable and there will be no other choice. It won't happen because liberals want it, it will happen because businesses will end up forcing it to happen.

(And technology will help the process along.)

Posted by: Kevin Drum at October 10, 2003 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Where the hell are these supermarket employees making $18 an hour? I've never met one; are we maybe talking about meatcutters?

Posted by: Jason McCullough at October 10, 2003 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Jason, back in 1982 or so I lost a keypunch operator I was paying ~$7.50/hr to a cashier's job at a local Foodland paying $14/hr (or so she told me). Since we had trouble finding enough cash for the mortgage at that point, I couldn't exactly argue with her logic. So it may be accurate for some jobs in some places.

Posted by: Linkmeister at October 10, 2003 10:45 PM | PERMALINK


Those are the employees who have been working at the same store for 20 some odd years.

The average wage is much lower.

Posted by: Jenny at October 10, 2003 11:20 PM | PERMALINK


I should've made it more clear to the non-St. Louis readers that not only are two of the three chains locking out employees, but they are also privately held, so there's no real way for us to know how they are doing.

It's almost like we've gone back 100 years to the age when a minimum wage law didn't pass constitutional muster. It's obvious the market is NOT making sure that employees are being paid a living wage; yet management salaries continue to skyrocket. Maybe it's time for maximum wage legislation - that'd rile some wingnut feathers.

The gap between the haves and the have-nots widens, and progressives better damn well get reaccustomed to supporting unions.

Posted by: Edge at October 10, 2003 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent post, Kevin. You have been terrific on labor issues in the past several months.

For those who wish to see the union side, including the fact that the grocery stores are making decent to healthy profits--and their execs don't seem to be taking anything other than hefty raises, bonsues, and long term severance contracts--see:

This is a fight that suburban people, who see these cashiers and other workers a couple of times a week or more, ought to be strongly supportive. I'll feel better in so Cal if this support develops, particularly after an anti-union Arnold was elected this week: Sigh. With. Some. Union. Voters. Double Sigh.

Yes, life is complicated, ain't it?

Posted by: mitchell freedman at October 10, 2003 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

We can all help by boycotting the Evil Empire that is Wal-Mart.

Posted by: David Raatz at October 10, 2003 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Great commet Mitchell. I think you might enjoy my post about the subject.

Fo anyone else it includes a bit mroe info and a link to the SaveOurHealthCare site. Which I am trying to convince them to set up atheir own blog on. If they don't ... it's cause they are on the line.

Posted by: Kevin Thurman at October 10, 2003 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

"We can all help by boycotting the Evil Empire that is Wal-Mart."

And Home Depot, Costco, etc. Look at it this way. If you knew these companies were dumping raw sewage into our rivers in order to save money and offer lower prices, would you still buy there just to save a few bucks? Hopefully not. What they are doing to society and the economy by paying slave wages is no less harmful.

Posted by: obe at October 10, 2003 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

Soem Costco stores in California are union and the Teamsters are working on the rest. It will happen. Costco is a great chain in many ways and should not be compared to it's arch enemy Walmart - at least in California.

As for Home Depot, et. al. isn't that SIEU's job ... after all they are leading the way.

Posted by: Kevin Thurman at October 11, 2003 01:09 AM | PERMALINK

I hope it works out OK for these workers -- I have had to strike as a member of a union, and it ain't fun at all. Among the crowd I run with, unions really have a bad reputaion. Any idea on what kind of support they will get out there in Cali?

Posted by: Timothy Klein at October 11, 2003 01:17 AM | PERMALINK

$37K a year? cry me a river!Interns (you know, people who have gone through 4 years of post-graduate training and eyeball deep in debt) make less than that, and work twice as many hours. Cali is hemorrhaging jobs, and these guys are complaining that they make only $37K at a job which requires no post secondary education? I think I hear the world's tiniest violin playing the world's saddest song.

As far as socializing healthcare; it has been disasterous wherever implemented. Not at first, but over time, it becomes a joke.

Posted by: doc Russia at October 11, 2003 01:28 AM | PERMALINK

doc Russia:

Cali is not 'hemorrhaging jobs.' That is a bullshit claim made up to try and support the recall effort. The Cali jobs situation is no worse than anywhere else in the nation. It ain't good, by any strech, but it not bleeding profusely, either.

And an intern has a full career ahead of them -- they are probably 22, with no family. Of the very, very, very few people at a supermarket market making $37k a year, they have been doing their job for 20+ years, and are probably one of the very few allowed to work full time.

Your compassion is overwhelming. If these people's time is so worthless, we'll see how the well the company runs when they are gone.

Posted by: Timothy Klein at October 11, 2003 01:37 AM | PERMALINK

37K a year? cry me a river!

And yet conservatives clamor for the good ol' days of Rugged Individualism...

We all can't be CEO's, professionals, and successful entrepreneurs with the six-figure salary it takes to be fully self-sufficient in this society.

But if we all pitch in we can.

I fail to see what's so controversial about this.

Funny thing is if 37k/yr were the minimum wage apartment rents would just go up to meet what the market would bear.

There's many things sick about this society, and man-on-dog is very low on the list.

Posted by: Troy at October 11, 2003 01:49 AM | PERMALINK

I'm of two minds on the pending grocery strike. On the one hand, I'm very much in favor of people being able to live off the job they perform. On the other hand, California grocery stores are light years behind those in North Carolina, where self-checkout is available, and few stores require you to unload your own cart. I often wonder how much of the discrepancy is union related.

Of course, in all practicality I can't support the strike anyway. All three of the affordable grocery stores in town are being picketed. Eventually I'll get hungry.

Posted by: Craig Moe at October 11, 2003 02:39 AM | PERMALINK

"These jobs, of course, are not under pressure from overseas. What they are under pressure from is Wal-Mart."

You actually ever go to the supermarket?

If you did you'd notice that in an ever increasing number of them customer scanning checkouts replace 4 cashiers with one human attendant for every 4 (or more) self-scan stations.

That's some pretty serious pressure and it's not coming from Wal-Mart, which by the way has the worst cashier customer service (ie the longest, slowest lines) of any store I know.

Posted by: tom b at October 11, 2003 03:09 AM | PERMALINK

Trader Joe's manages apparently its employees a lot more than $17.90/hr., and seems to be thriving.

Posted by: Robuzo at October 11, 2003 03:32 AM | PERMALINK

I think you guys are flunking Economics 101.

You seem to be assuming that all of these companies are doing well making cash hand over fist.

However, as Adam Smith pointed out, that's highly unlikely unless there is some kind of government interference preventing competition.

Let's say all of these companies were doing so well. What happens if one of them gets greedy and tries to seize market share by cutting prices?

Well, unless the others match that one will increase market share, make more money, open more stores, and pay its management more money.

That's what Wal-Mart does, trying to cut prices and sieze market share.

The only way to prevent that is collusion, which is already a crime that can land executives in jail, and something that certainly isn't happening when companies compete with Wal-Mart at least - Wal-Mart squeezes their lychees.

So let's say these cashiers get their way... two possibilities...

1. They don't unionize Wal-Mart, in which case they have nice fat paychecks but fewer jobs as Wal-Mart takes more market share, or

2. They unionize Wal-Mart as well, prices go up for everyone, and cashiers are better off at the expense of everyone else, including other working poor.

Mind telling me why cashiers are specially deserving so that they should get more money out of my pocket and that of people like gas station attendants?

Seems to me that it's better and fairer to let competition push down prices for everyone, whether or not they are buying from unionized companies.

Posted by: Mike at October 11, 2003 03:35 AM | PERMALINK

37k a year isn't that extreme for California. I'm guessing any less than that you might as well just move. Talk about an expensive place to live.

In any case, it seems to me that the major issue here is the cost of health insurance. Meaning that the massive waste of the HMO industry is a drag on the entire industry at large.

It is such a drag that it rewards companies many times over, who do not offer health care for their workers. Those that can classify workers as "part-time" and not have to pay them benefits.

As bad as single-payer might be, the HMO system is a massive failure, and must be scrapped.

Posted by: Karmakin at October 11, 2003 03:36 AM | PERMALINK

It's interesting that everyone is seizing on the figure $37,000 per year and debating whether that is or isn't a reasonable amount of money for a checker to make. Kind of misses one of Kevin's main points -- the vast majority of checkers don't make that much! Or even close to that much. Also, the main issue in this strike isn't raising wages, it's hanging on to their health care benefits.

Robuzo mentioned Trader Joe's relatively good wages and benefits. I'm curious: Is Trader Joe's unionized?

Posted by: Jeanne at October 11, 2003 05:33 AM | PERMALINK

"Where the hell are these supermarket employees making $18 an hour? I've never met one; are we maybe talking about meatcutters?"

Posted by: Jason McCullough at October 10, 2003 10:31 PM

Note the magic term 'as much as'. In plain english, that means 'much less than'. The figure probably comes from some worker with 30 years, a critical specialty, working overtime on a holiday. Possibly with a productivity bonus on top (i.e., a bump to the pay if there was over a certain amount of business). And I'm sure that management made sure that that won't happen again.

Posted by: Barry at October 11, 2003 05:43 AM | PERMALINK

Doc Russia - you do know why interns get screwed? Three reasons - they paid a lot for medical school, so they're locked in, they expect to become doctors in two years, so they have a future incentive, and three - teaching hospitals conspire with each other to control the placements and working conditions of interns. Note that that 'trust' activity has held up quite well over the years. Expect more of this as anti-trust laws are weakened.

Posted by: Barry at October 11, 2003 05:46 AM | PERMALINK

I don't have a dog in this fight, but it seems to me that workers shouldn't be fighting each other for tiny pieces of the pie - arguing over how good everyone else has got it. We should find a way to band together, because all the economic indices for the past 30 years show that workers are in trouble. Management can take care of itself.

Those of us who are well-educated, white collar types aren't insulated from what's happening to workers in grocery stores. That's wishful thinking.

Posted by: fdr at October 11, 2003 06:34 AM | PERMALINK

Doc R

As far as socializing healthcare; it has been disasterous wherever implemented. Not at first, but over time, it becomes a joke.

By "socializing healthcare" — boo! — I assume you mean setting up some kind of single-payer system. Please support your assertion that single-payer health care eventually proves to be "disasterous [sic] whenever implemented." Define your terms: disastrous in terms of access to the system? Disastrous in terms of quality of care provided? Disastrous in terms of costs to consumers? Costs to medical personnel? Who, exactly, would take the brunt of these disastrous effects? Are there any ways to ameliorate these disastrous effects? You can't make that kind of flat-out statement, using that kind of loaded language, and expect your argument (such as it is) to be taken seriously.

And really, more to the point, disastrous compared to what? Our current employer-based system is far worse than a joke.

• Employers hate it because it's another administrative headache and an ever-expanding expense.

• Covered employees hate it because it's an ever-expanding expense for them, too, with ever-shrinking benefits, and yet as crappy as the coverage may be, losing all coverage is a big reason to be terrified of losing your job — especially if you've got a family, the dreaded "pre-existing condition," or both.

• Working people who aren't covered, including the increasing numbers of self-employed workers, hate it because they're locked out of virtually all group plans, which means their coverage is even more expensive (and more limited) than the plans the employers complain about.

• Health-care professionals hate it because they have to spend enormous amounts of time dealing with the repetitive yet contradictory paperwork required by the various plans. (IIRC, a recent study [from the GAO? brain cells need coffee] showed that about 25% of current U.S. healthcare spending goes to administration costs — as opposed to around 10-15% of spending under single-payer systems.)

So, again, disastrous compared to what? Do you really think what we've got now is a-okay, peachy-keen, no-worries-here? If so, please divulge how much of your income is derived from insurance company salary or investments. If not, how would you improve it?

More directly OT: As others have pointed out, your reading comprehension needs work. The phrase "as much as" sets upper limits, not minimum baselines; it doesn't even indicate a mean or median figure. Your lack of compassion — well, that's really your own problem. Chances are, your own karmic comeuppance awaits. Just ask Rush.

Posted by: nina at October 11, 2003 07:48 AM | PERMALINK

I never set foot in Wal-Mart, because 1) I don't like their merchandising or customer service, and 2) Many of my clients are Wal-Mart vendors, and, in my experience, Wal-Mart nearly universally is a dead-beat when it comes to paying vendors on time, and the smaller the vendor, the worse Wal-Mart behaves. Ask a local construction business what it was like getting paid by Wal-Mart after helping build one of their new stores. You can imagine what it is like trying to use the legal system to collect from a dead-beat which has monumentally more resources to fend off collection. Having said that, tens of millions of people obviously prefer shopping at Wal-Mart, and the more price concious, which usually means the poorer, the more they seem to prefer Wal-Mart. Can enough people become sufficiently angry about Wal- Mart's behavior so as to react in a way that Wal-Mart would consider modifying it's behavior? I don't know.

I have nothing against unions, but I also don't support the notion that it is legitimate for the state to force employers to negotiate with unions if they would prefer not to. This means that, with the exception of times of very tight labor supply, workers without uncommon skills aren't going to have much leverage in negotiating. Workers with uncommon skills, like airline pilots, are going to have tremendous leverage, and industries with high competiton and a very skilled labor force ain't going to be very profitable. Why anybody invests in airline stocks, except as purely cyclical speculative plays, is beyond me. I don't think there is a "solution" to this "problem", because the moment the state forces employers to negotiate with unions, regardless of the supply of workers with that skill set, you are on the road to labor monopolies which destroy innovation, just as all monopolies destroy innovation.

Rising health care premiums no doubt are no doubt destroying the disposable income of all workers, and getting employers out of the health care business would be a positive step. It would have been better if the Federal Govt. had never encouraged such an arrangement. To say, however, that the only choices are between the current regime, and a single payer system, that potentially better alternatives are not available, is rather short-sighted. Unfortunately, when the primary political activity of a society is having some groups use the state to grab the property of other groups, fueled by pure demagoguery and covetous desire, the chances of having an honest debate on the issue is practically nil.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 07:55 AM | PERMALINK

fdr, the notion that workers are worse off than thirty years ago needs to be disputed. In the vast majority of locations, the median wage earner of today is far better off than he was 30 yeras ago. Let me ask you this: If we were to locate Morris Median of 2003, and tell him that his 3 year old Honda Civic, bought used, was going to be swapped for a new 1973 Ford Maverick, that his median square footage home of 2003 was going to be swapped for his median square footage home of 1973, that his 32 inch Samsung T.V., purchased with 20 hours work, was going to be swapped with a 19 inch Philco, purchased with 40 hours work, that he was going to have to drive 16 hours each way to his Orlando vacation, instead of fly, and that when his child developed leukemia, the child would receive the treatments available in 1973, as opposed to what is available today, do you think Morris would consider such a swap attractive?

If you want to say that the gap between Morris and the CEO of Morris' employer is much wider than it was 30 years ago, that is one thing, but that is far different than saying that Morris of 2003 would gladly swap with Morris of 1973. He would not.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 08:21 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder how much of the wage issue can be attributed to the fact that California has tons of immigrants (legal and illegal) that are willing to work for mere minimum wage? I mean, when you have a large number of people willing to work for this, why bother paying union-scale wages?

Posted by: mark at October 11, 2003 08:26 AM | PERMALINK

mark, I have little doubt that the amount of immigration into CA greatly increases the supply of workers without uncommon skills, and thus reduces the earning power of workers without uncommon skills. I also have little doubt that we would all be better off if Mexico was a far wealthier nation, thereby reducing the desire of so many to our south to come north in search of a better life. How Mexico can become far wealthier, and how quickly it can become so, is a complicated question.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 08:38 AM | PERMALINK

Klein- 22 year old interns are a rarity. most people are only getting out of college at 22, and some of us later than that. 26 is a minimum, and 30 is about the time when they actually start making serious money, provided they went straight through all of their training. I am looking at being in my mid thirties when I finish everything because I served a tour in the USMC.
Even so, if these people were working at the same store for so long, they decided to do so for a reason. 20 years is a long time, and if they wanted nothing more, they got nothing more. Personally, if I were living as a grocery store worker, I would get some sort of training or education in order to command a higher salary. Of course that requires more work, and delayed gratification, but life is tough that way.

single-payer/socialized/universal healthcare or whatever you want to call it will be disasterous less in terms of costs increasing, but mostly in the form of quality of care nosediving. Who had socialized healthcare? The soviet union, for one. Although they had many intelligent doctors, the system was awful. bribery and black marketeering became the norm for services. My sister-in-law fell, and hit her head on a coffee table. She was bleeding profusely from a scalp lac. Her mom called for an ambulance. After a couple of hours, the ambulance still had not arrived (it would not show up finally until the next day), so she went to the black market, to buy sutures, a needle, antiseptic, and anaesthetic, and took them to the hospital with her daughter. She needed to bring her own, because the hospital did not have the supplies. When they arrived, the doctor on duty was drunk. they had no alternative, so they gave him the materials, so that he could stitch her up. The doctor kept the anaesthetic for himself (because he could sell it on the black market for vodka money), and stitched up the little girl without anaesthetic.

Sorry for going on and on there, but that is a prime example of what happens; the system becomes corrupt. Even now, medicare is defrauded to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a day. Go to a county hospital, and look at the quality of care in their ED as opposed to a private hospital. Usually, the county hospital is understaffed, and short of everything except for patients.

I realize it is an ugly thing to watch a beautiful idea get murdered by reality and experience, but socialized medicine is strictly a short term fix with long term detrimental side effects.

Posted by: doc Russia at October 11, 2003 09:13 AM | PERMALINK

Will -
I guess you won't take your head out of your ass until your uncommon skill becomes common - like when they farm programming jobs out to India.

But, much as they refuse to believe it, the owners of businesses benefit from the society they live in and the government that protects their property. The notion that they have NO obligation other than to find labor at the lowest possible price will ultimately destroy this society if it is not counterbalanced.

Tell me again why it's good that the owner of a business should have no limit on the amount he can earn while the possessor of merely common skills should be thankful he's allowed to live?

Posted by: Steve Cohen at October 11, 2003 09:18 AM | PERMALINK

doc Russia - so the only laternatives are the Soviet Union and us? Europe and Canada don't exist?

To say, however, that the only choices are between the current regime, and a single payer system, that potentially better alternatives are not available, is rather short-sighted.

What are these alternatives? And since we've already had some people here excoriating single payer as being disastrous wherever it's been applied, do these alternatives have a track record or are they just theoretical contructs?

My impression is that in the real world you have two major systems in the developed world - ours, and some form of single payer everywhere else. If our system collapses we'll have to choose between what the rest of the world does or some new system no one's ever tried.

I'd grant that a poorly-designed form of single payer could be quite bad. However a well-designed version could eliminate the massive overhead of our current system and provide universal coverage without cost-shifting or burdening the international competitiveness of our business sector. Are we so terrified of change that we'll just watch the system collapse because we we're afraid we might make a mistake when we try to fix it?

One other note. The question of the overall cost of health care (and attempts to limit the growth of that cost) are really separate from (though related to) the question of how we pay for it (private insurance vs. single payer).

The nub of the thing is that we have unlimited growth potential for costs (we can always keep inventing new, more expensive treatments) but finite resources. The very ugly fact is that eventually the only way to contain costs is to deny care. Figuring out a way to do this rationally will probably be easier in the context of a single payer system, since there will be only one system to deal with, not the multiplicity of them in a fragmented semi-private system such as what we have now. Plus single payer sidesteps the inherent conflicts of interest of private insurance.

I think we need a two-step process - put together a well-designed single payer system, then deal with the nasty business of controlling costs therein.

Posted by: jimBOB at October 11, 2003 09:24 AM | PERMALINK


you might want to check out:

The last talks about the fact that while median income has risen, the average rise in income for all but the richest is very small.

With such small increases, IMHO the question of if the poor are better off than 30 years ago must include whether or not the cost of living has increased. I don't just mean inflation, but what percentage of their income people are forced to spend on transportation and housing.

In other words, the question isn't so much whether or not income has risen after accounting for inflation, but how that income compares to stats like the housing wage.

And for all of you who are going off about the $17.90 per hour keep in mind

1) This is MAXIMUM, not average.

2) The stores aren't proposing to save money by reducing the maximum, but by reducing the minimum, among another things.

3) The housing wage in California is $21.18
Since this is an average for the state, its likely higher in the bay area and much of So Cal.

last stat was from:

Posted by: Jenny at October 11, 2003 09:40 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Cohen, thanks for the scatological ad hominem approach to dialogue; it is always helpful to know what sort of character one is conversing with. My uncommon skills have already become common; more than once, in fact. That is why I am always teaching myself more ways to make myself unusually useful to other human beings, which really is the only worthwhile endeavor in life. I know bartenders who have paid off mortgages 15 years early with tip money because they made themselves such damned enjoyable people to knock back whisky with. How one views oneself, and views others, has tremendous impact on one's earning power.

Employers have the same responsibility as employees; to deal with others in a non-fraudulent manner that respects their liberty. Respecting others liberty means that, no, we don't have a legitimate right to forcibly limit what others can obtain via mutual agreement. If one wishes to make the case that the owners of most firms do not have sufficient control of these firms, and this results in the management of these firms engaging in self-dealing to the detriment of the owners, I tend to agree, and would gladly explore ways in which management could be made more accountable to owners.

I do happen to believe that it is legitimate for the state to forcibly construct a social safety net for those unable to provide for themselves, but as I noted in another post above, the median earner in this society DOES live better than the median earner did 30 years ago, so it is not accurate to say that the overwhelming majority of workers cannot provide for themselves a comfortable existence.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 09:54 AM | PERMALINK

Doc R —

That's the best response you can muster up — a scary anecdote about a health-care system that no longer exists, in a country that imploded due largely to its own incompetence, corruption and mismanagement? Hell, I can see you and raise you; I've got lots of horrific tales to tell about the current system right here in the U.S. of A. But that's a pointless exercise; I'd rather hear you address the points I raised earlier.

I gather you're in, or have recently graduated from, medical school; if your recent postings are typical of your skills in critical thinking and analysis... well, I really, really hope you never get your hands on my chart.

Posted by: nina at October 11, 2003 09:57 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I didn't think that anyone had a limit on what they can earn.

The only limit is based on how valuable and unique your skills are to others.

Are you suggested that we should have some kind of bureacracy deciding how valuable each kind of work is and limiting income based on that?

That's crazy!

It also wouldn't work - people who run businesses would just structure their compensation as dividends and capital gains... or are you going to limit those too?

Posted by: Mike at October 11, 2003 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Jenny, I was disputing the notion that median workers were better off thirty years ago, which, as you pointed out, just isn't the case. Furthermore, the data presented showing a very small increase usually fails to account for monumental increases in quality; the median worker today would storm Congress with pitchforks before he would swap with the living standard with the median worker of 30 years ago. Some of these quality increases are less important, like televisions, some are more important, like automobiles, and some are monumentally important,like childhood leukemia treatments. The failure to account for such leaps in quality, however (it is an extremely difficult thing to quantify), tends to greatly understate improvements in living standards, and we haven't even accounted for all improvements in living standards produced by technology that didn't even exist 30 years ago, like the method of communication that you and I are enjoying right now. As much as people like to nostalgically wax about days gone by, there are few of us, who actually confronted with what life was like even 30 years ago, would even consider going back.

Housing costs do have a real negative impact on the poor's living standards, and, not suprisingly, the state's interference in housing markets, in the form of zoning laws and other development restrictions, plays a gigantic role in this.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

I think we need a two-step process - put together a well-designed single payer system, then deal with the nasty business of controlling costs therein.


But I think we need to acknowledge and be prepared for the way that "nasty business" ultimately comes to be handled in single payer systems: it will never, ever be a matter of up-front decision-making because the politics cannot be overcome. It will be via such things as the "natural" friction of the delivery system caused by funding shortfalls, the necessity to delay elective care, limitations on reimbursements to providers (which will have ripple effects on the quality of care, etc.).

But let's face another fact while we're at it: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT SYSTEM in which every single citizen is always cared for in the most optimal way. There can, however, be better and worse systems.

Given the economic and procedural burdens the current system places on American business, I think eventually the business community is going to see the light on a move toward single payer. It will, by political necessity, have to be a step-by-step, gradual move, probably via a gentle expansion of current Medicare and Medicaid eligibility to the working poor. Call it "corporate welfare" if you like, but at least it also directly helps the poor.

And there will always be room for private insurance and private care, just as there is in Europe. The richer 30% or so will always be able to get premium care, but at least everyone will have some minimum standard.

Posted by: Julia Grey at October 11, 2003 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

jimBOB, I congratulate you for forthrightly acknowledging what most advocates of a single payer system energetically seek to avoid acknowledging; that such a regime revolves around the concept of political bodies determining capital allocation, and , thus, supply, so as to control costs by denying care to people. I don't think political bodies are well equipped to such tasks; there is a track record for central planning, after all.

Furthermore, the rest of the world does benefit from the large profits to be made in health care technology in this country, and make no mistake, health care IS a technology-centered endeavor. If one wishes to say that our lives would be improved if health care technology greatly reduced it's rate of innovation, one should do that forthrightly, also. If one wishes to have capital utilization for health care technology mimic the sterling record of the Department of Defense in utilizing capital for military technology , or NASA's record in space technology, having the entire world on single payer systems will accomplish that nicely. Strangely, I don't find such a prospect comforting. None of this is to defend the current regime in the U.S., of course, which in many ways combines the worst aspects of central planning and market-driven regimes.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

To keep the "as much as" $37K per year in perspective, it is important to tell the rest of the country that a very modest two bedroom apartment in West LA is $1500 a month. Another factor is that there is no public transportation worthy of the name.

It is also important to note that "as much as" refers to the top wage rate at 40 hours per week. So, it would be interesting to know how many get the top rate and how many work full time.

Employer, particularly large corporate employer, opposition to single payer or other similar health care proposals might be a class-based "slippery-slope" kind of position. All this creeping socialism and "Next thing you know, they'll want [fill in the blank] and how are we going to pay for that?"

Posted by: James E. Powell at October 11, 2003 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

Doc:HMO style-health care has just as much limiting and waiting lists as in Canada, which I am used to. Not to mention that getting an actual diagnosis is next to impossible, as some Doctors tend to stretch out their billable hours as much as possible, especially in more rural locations.

Will:Technology in general has improved so much. I wouldn't compare the technology of 30 years ago to the tech to today. Money, is how we keep score, in our society. We buy things to look good to our neighbours and increase our standing in society. I, personally despise this. But that's the way it goes.

Limiting executive salaries, of course, should not be a political issue. It should be a culutural issue, one part of a society were we value hard work, and the personal value of the work we do rather than how much money we rake in and the goods we consume as compared to our neighbours. See the above idea as well.

Would that count as socialism? I'm not sure.

In any case, I'll restate the idea that the HMO system is a complete drain on the US economy, and needs to be scrapped. It shifts the playing field in ways that are not at all health for both the economy and society at large. And people who say that they should educate themselves and move above that..well..SOMEONE has to do those jobs. Don't forget that.

Posted by: Karmakin at October 11, 2003 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Mr. Allen, but I'm afraid your head still hasn't fully emerged to the light of day.

And the reason I say that is your strange illusion that opening something called a "business" entitles you to the total protection of the state against any attempt by the "subspecies" you employ in your business to collectively pressure you for a more equitable proportion of the gross of your business' combined efforts.

Why is it that you can find no room in your conception of society for collective "selfishness"
but an infinite solicitude for individual selfishness? If a corporation employs let's say 20000 people, a large majority of whom would like to unionize, and the corporation management decides "no way, no how" to the union - end of story? Why is that appropriate? And if the union refuses to take no for an answer, is it then appropriate that the full power of the state come down on the side of the corporation?

Because that is ultimately what you're talking about, no matter how you couch your position in libertarian rhetoric.

What's your answer to those would-be union members? Isn't it "go out and start your own business?" Again, I'd ask, why is the "business owner" the only economic actor whose wishes count for anything, the only one deserving of the protection of the state?

Communism and socialism have been rightly criticized for their optimism that they could remold humans out of their selfishness into shining "new socialist men." They ignored or overlooked human nature.

But the libertarian hyper-capitalist position is similarly utopian when it imagines that people will always passively accept job loss and low wages and high levels of income disparity, no matter how severe, in the name of a perfectly functioning "free market" that will somehow bring paradise on earth if only people stop trying to mess with it.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at October 11, 2003 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding healthcare costs:

Whether the company pays, the union pays, or the worker pays the health costs; the costs still come from the labor account. The issue is getting more corporate revenue for the worker, debating how the revenue is accounted changes nothing, people with actual math skills can count up the healthcare costs regardless of which account it is placed in.

The issue of single payer health care has been discussed on another thread. Regardless of your opinion of it, the costs will not dramatically disappear because government pays insurance fees from wage taxes or the private sector pays from its wage accounts. The cost of health care still comes from the private sector; and, for the retail sector, it still comes from the labor accounts.

Workers are not stupid, they know very well that a single payer system is covered with additional payroll taxes. Put in terms that even Kevin Drum can comprehend, this means wages are taken from retail clerks by the government, the paycheck is reduced. The overall labor rates are still determined by free market negotiations.

Now there is the hidden agenda that in a single payer system, somehow a worker can avoid paying his full cost for health care; possibly by a hidden progressivity in the payroll tax system.

This is the real debate, whether healthcare costs can be shifted (or even the extent that tax progressivity can reduce income disparity), and intellectual integrity would demand that this issue be debated, and not assumed by either side.

Posted by: Matt Young at October 11, 2003 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Karmakin, the topic at hand was living standards of today vs. thirty years ago, not relative social status of today vs. thirty years ago. As you note, the overwhelming majority of people DO live better today than thirty years ago, and live comfortable lives. If your neighbor's honestly obtained wealth bothers you, that is your problem, and to lay your all too common and human envy complex off on someone else is unfortunate.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

such a regime revolves around the concept of political bodies determining capital allocation, and , thus, supply, so as to control costs by denying care to people.

I think you're confusing a couple of different levels of things here. On the one hand there's the question of how many resources should be be allocated to health care as a whole (or to its largest constituent elements - research, treatment, training, etc.). On the other there's the question of whether or not to fund a specific intervention in a specific case (does Aunt Mary get a bone marrow transplant, etc.). The first level is inherently political. The second is really where the rubber hits the road when it comes to controlling costs.

There are models where doctors/hospitals have a given budget that they can allocate for treatment options among their patient population. There are models where you have specific criteria for treatment decisions (if Aunt Mary is over 75 then no bone marrow transplants are allowed). There may be other models for how to set it up. I have no idea which of these models is best, but the point is that they or some combination of them will eventually be mandatory.

You can raise bogeymen about government bureaucracies deciding if we live or die, but this ignores the fact that insurance company bureaucracies (which or no more cuddly than the government kind, in my experience) already make these decisions, and that as the current system collapses it's going to all land in the lap of a government bureaucrat whether you like it or not.

BTW, I didn't see an answer to my question about what alternatives there are to single payer vs. private insurance.

Matt Young

Actually I noted that theoretically you can get some costs back under single payer if you eliminate the massive overhead in the current system (this assumes a well-designed flavor of single payer). I also acknowledge that the real work of cost containment is elsewhere.

Posted by: jimBOB at October 11, 2003 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Matt Young, one thing you leave out of your analysis is the fact that there is, in the present system, a MIDDLEMAN between the employer and the healthcare provider, to wit, the insurance company, and the insurance company's costs and profits add an additional layer of costs to the entire system.

Please add that in and get back to me.


Posted by: Julia Grey at October 11, 2003 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Will, I realize that was your point.

I was simply trying to say that the question should not be if supermarket checkers are paid more than they were 30 years ago, but if supermarket wages are closer to covering the costs of living.

Pointing out that median wages have increased (although by a small amount) does little to demonstrate whether or not supermarket employees are more or less reasonably paid. And the question of whether or not a certain income bracket can afford certain technologies must be combined with information regarding the comparative neccessity of these technologies.

Technonogy has improved, and the improvements have made it more affordable, but the fact that I can buy a dvd for the cost of a hardback does nothing to mitigate the high cost of housing and transportation. I may have my own car, while my mother shared one with my father when she was my age, but I need mine to get to work, and she didn't.

Posted by: Jenny at October 11, 2003 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

" but that is far different than saying that Morris of 2003 would gladly swap with Morris of 1973. He would not. "

You swiped this from someone else as I have read it before. And it is absolutely, positively absurd.

A grocery clerk at Safeway today would switch positions with one from 30-40 years ago based on earnings and what they could buy in terms of housing and health care and other essentials in a heartbeat.

It's the CEO and other executive level management who would not, not with out a fight to the death.

Posted by: obe at October 11, 2003 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

I guess I am cruel and heartless, but 18 dollars an hour for unskilled labor seems pretty good to me.

I know a lot of teachers here in WV would like to earn 37k a year.

Posted by: John Cole at October 11, 2003 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Cohen, I'm afraid you're still a boorish person to have a conversation with. Congratulations. I never said that employees (nice use of the scare quoted demagoguery involved in employing the term "sub-species", by the way) could not attempt to collectively pressure a business owner for greater wages. I just said that business owners are people, and people have the right to withdraw from relationships that they do not wish to have, and to form relationships with others that they find more attractive.

Your entire paradigm revolves around the concept of using violence, either implicit or explicit, to force some people to submit to other people's will. I have no desire to force anyone to do anything other than what they have mutually consented to. And all dishonest characterizations aside, which seems to be your stock in trade, I have no illusions that minimizing forced relationships will result in paradise or perfection. I know that the world will be imperfect, regardless of how humans organize themselves, so they may as well restrict their forced relationships to those instances in which failure to force a relationship will result in the most pernicious forms of forced relationships, that which exist in states of tyranny or anarchy. Given that union membership has continued to decrease while living standards have continued to increase, I see no basis for forcing people to engage with unions if they would prefer not to.

I don't think it should be legal to fire people for attempting to form a union, but once the union is formed, or a contract expires, if the two sides cannot reach mutual agreement, the employer should be free to hire people who consent to employement on terms that they DO find mutually agreeable.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Obe, if you are going to accuse me of plagiarism, back it up with proof, or it can fairly stated that you are are despicable liar. I have employed this language in the past, so it may well be that you have read it then.

Now, if you think the median employee (which is what "Morris" refers to, in case your reading comprhension standards approach that of your standards of honesty) of today would gladly swap with that of 30 years ago, please inform us what would be more attractive. The treatments available for childhood leukemia in 1973, as opposed to 2003? Morris' child had a 90% plus fatality rate in 1973; it isn't even close to that anymore (oh, I know, only rich people's children receive such treatment, which I guess statistically must mean that only rich people's children get leukemia!). Would the Morris of 2003 be happy to drive 16 hours each way to Disney World for vacation, as his 1973 counterpart did, due to regulated airfares, or do ya' think he prefers flying? Oh, I know, all those millions who visit the Land Of Mickey each year are all rich!!! Would Morris of 2003 actually prefer to drive a brand new 1973 Ford Maverick, or the model 2000 Honda Civic he just bought used? Of course, we all know that only rich people buy used Honda Civics!

Finally, if one wishes to make the case that housing costs have a terrible impact on poor people, fine, but the best way to do alleviate that is to stop the goverment's interference in housing markets, in the form of zoning laws and other restrictions, so as to allow a more rapid increase in the housing stock.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Jenny, I performed supermarket work in 1975 for less than $2/hour; it was my first stint as an employee, so I remember it well. I was merely responding to the contention that living standards have declined for any but a very small fraction (if that) of the population. They have not, and even the studies that only show a small increase do not factor well the enormous improvements in quality in the past thirty years, and the tremendous impact these quality increases have on standards of living. As I have indicated, housing costs are problematic, for the poor, and in some regions of the country, but housing costs have suffered upward pressure from increased government interference in the creation of new housing stock. I'd love to see zoning laws and other hindrances relaxed, but guess who would be some of the people who would fight such actions most? The same sort who proclaim themselves environmentalists who support renewable energy sources, and then fight to the last dog a proposal to erect windmills which affect their view of the ocean.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

jimbob, I missed your post above. You seem to think the current regime is the only means by which a private insurance market can be constructed. It is not. Furthermore, both levels you mention are inherently political; if there are enough Aunt Mays, who can deliver enough votes, then Aunt May's problem is going to get research, and Aunt May is going to get her procedure. We see how well this method of capital allocation has worked in, say, agriculture, where milk is regualrly produced and then poured on the ground, and the Department of Defense, where many military bases perform the vital strategic role of getting incumbent Congressmen re-elected. Central planning will produce the results of central planning, without fail, including stifling technological innovation; and in an area in which constant, rapid, innovation benefits everyone hugely.

A regime in which mandatory coverage was required at age 18 on, with a total lifetime limit on benefits paid, would be one in which the insurer could develop stable premiums, since total outlay is limited, and the premium stream begins while the insured is young and healthy, and will continue for decades for most insured. True, if someone is so unlucky to use up their coverage at a young age, they will then be forced to consume their own assets and then be denied care, but that is no more arbitrary than having a political body decide that a 72 year old can't get a bypass. Of course, some people are already uninsurable at age 18, but they comprise a small enough percentage of the population to handle with a government program.

The advantage of such a regime is lies in having health care consumers each individually decide where their benefits should be spent, and thus where capital will be allocated. Premiums would vary as to how large a deductible was desired; premiums for first dollar cover coverage would be very large indeed, to reflect the fact that people who have first dollar coverage tend to use many more services.

This is only a very brief explanation as to how a private insurance market might be constructed that differs hugely from what we now have, but I am out of time for now, and simply suggest that some non-binary thinking might be useful here, so as to avoid believing that there are only two methods of delivery; single-payer, or the godawful hybrid we are currrently saddled with. I appreciate the civil exchange.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 11, 2003 02:17 PM | PERMALINK

No, Mr. Allen, I don't think I'm being boorish. I'm merely trying to point out that behind the facade of your oh-so-non-coercive views does in fact lurk the threat of unemployment and ultimately violence. If workers choose to go on strike about this, violence is in the air, no doubt about it - both from the striking workers who don't want to see others taking their jobs and from the employers who try to crush the strike.

And then of course, we can look a little more broadly at the businesses which decide to "form relationships" with "people they find more attractive", such as children in Indonesia and other low-wage spots. I don't suppose there's any coercion going on over there, now, is there? I guess those folks love working for pennies a day.

The fact is "mutual consent" is given not in a perfect world of people participating as equals in decision making but on a messy playing field where all sorts of forces some benevolent and some not are in play to create the "normal" conditions against which decisions are made.

Oh, and speaking of dishonesty, just where is this place you're talking about where "union membership has continued to decrease while living standards have continued to increase". Most studies I've seen show a decline in living standards over the period when US labor union membership declined.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at October 11, 2003 04:23 PM | PERMALINK

Insurance overhead costs.

Julia Gray claims that the savings in the single payer plan accrue from reduction in overhead costs. There are a few points.

The recent analysis of Medicare vs private overhead costs failed to mention that doctors execute much of the overhead costs personally in Medicare, and this was left out of the study. (Studies about insurance overhead costs have to be carefully examined to avoid bias) The Washington Times called a random sample of doctors and asked them to count the number of hours each week they spend on medicare forms, and the results are similiar to overhead percentages accounted for by private unsurance clerks.

Again, replacing government insurance management with private insurance management will not realize much savings, and fails to solve the main problem of insurance; how does medical services get rationed.

Yes, rationing will always occur. The normal method of government rationing is to have folks wait in line and medical care is given to those who haven't died befor getting to the head of the queue.

No one has solved this problem, although some advocates claim the solution is to give everyone all the medicare they want. All the rationing systems for government medical insurance seem to devolve to waiting in line when examined closely.

I suspect the reason for the popularity of government medical insurance is based on two element. First, a hidden desire to sneak in another progressive tax system; and second, a desire to force everyone onto a random rationing system.

There in one partial solution to government rationing which most of us would prefer to waiting in line. The better system is to pay folks a large sum of money if they agree to die sooner than later. This rationing system causes hysteria in people like Kevin Drum.

Posted by: Matt Young at October 11, 2003 05:25 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen

Ah, mandatory private insurance. I have heard of this one.

The scheme as you outline it raises a whole host of questions, but the first I'd ask would be the same one I posed above: has this (or anything like it) ever actually been implemented in the real world? If not, before we commit to it wouldn't it be nice to see if it had some sort of track record?

WRT the nuts and bolts, the most obvious question has to do with enforcement. What happens to someone who doesn't buy insurance? Do they get locked up? Left to die in ER? Do we task the FBI to go searching for health insurance scofflaws?

Then there's the notion of stable lifetime premiums. What if there's a surge in inflation? Will the lifetime allocation be raised? Who decides to raise it? (Not those - horrors - central planners or politicians!) If it does get raised then what happens to everybody's premium? If it doesn't then what happens when everybody runs out of money at 50? Will the insurance companies be allowed to raise rates if the stock market dives? (Wall St.'s crash has a lot to do with recent insurance rate hikes.) What if an insurer goes under? Will its former customers be able to get their old rate at a different insurer? Or will they get a new rate based on their current medical status? (The former would put real pressure on the new insurer since they won't get the benefit of their new clients young, healthy years. The latter would eviscerate the idea of a stable lifetime premium.)

Then there's the question of people with expensive chronic conditions. You say they can easily be dealt with in a separate plan. Do we have any idea how many people this comprises? If we set the lifetime allocation too high, large numbers of people will have to pay for insurance they never use. Set it too low, and you'll end up with a sizeable percentage of the population in the separate plan. Of course, setting this allocation is a political decision.

Also, if the separate plan is too easy to get into then it eliminates the incentive for people to stay within their lifetime allocation. Make it too hard, and you'll create a permanent population of destitute dependents (say, anybody with something expensive and chronic, who might otherwise be in the productive parts of society).

And of course there's the question of what happens when consumers in theis scheme make bad choices about how to use their allocation. What if someone is so frightened of incurring expenses that they wait too long to see a doctor, and then end up in the ER, blowing most of their allocation on last-minute emergency treatment? Will it be politically possible to force such people to live with their mistake?

I could go on with these sorts of questions. To me, this scheme doen't obviously recommend itself over single payer, which has the benefit of having been actuall implemented. If you can point to a real, existing version of this to evaluate, I might change my mind.

Posted by: jimBOB at October 11, 2003 07:57 PM | PERMALINK

According to the union, proposed cuts in benefits could force workers to pay as much as 50% of the cost of medical visits, prescription drugs and hospital stays.

Well I've come up with a solution for that in my case, I just don't get sick. Can't afford it - no medical insurance.

Posted by: um at October 11, 2003 09:47 PM | PERMALINK

One question: is management planning to treat itself the same way?

Give me a break, these guy never pass the bucks, they pass the costs on to everyone else.

What're they makin'? Check the Executive PayWatch Database

And remember that In Lean Times, Fat-Cat CEOs Get Fatter

Posted by: Um at October 11, 2003 09:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Now, if you think the median employee (which is what "Morris" refers to, in case your reading comprhension standards approach that of your standards of honesty) of today would gladly swap with that of 30 years ago, please inform us what would be more attractive. The treatments available for childhood leukemia in 1973, as opposed to 2003."

The reason this is an idiotic argument is that these benefits you cite have absolutely nothing to do with the issues at hand, which are wage and benefit levels of workers in the two time periods and buying power (what you could buy in terms of housing, health care, education, etc.), especially relative to management.

You mean just because we have color tv now i should get a 10% cut in pay? And lose health benefits and no be able to afford insurance because lukemia rates are lower. Zowie!

Posted by: obe at October 11, 2003 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Obe, you're the one who claimed that a median worker from today would gladly swap places with a median worker fro 30 years ago based on buying capabilities with his wage.

Are you now admitting you were wrong?

Posted by: Mike at October 12, 2003 01:13 AM | PERMALINK

Doc Russia: As someone who has had the opportunity to compare the US healthcare system - or, rather, at least a couple of incarnations of it, since I was brought up under it and lived with it for 33 years - and the British NHS, I have to wonder what you mean about "socialized" healthcare always failing.

The NHS has worked for around half a century now. Thanks to conservatives dicking around with it under Thatcher and Blair, it has developed a number of glitches, but I still don't see how it is any worse than the US system, although the furniture isn't as nice and the private rooms aren't s big.

Last week I went to an appointment with my doctor. I waited a good, oh, ten or fifteen minutes to see him. There was no art on the walls, but then I didn't have to look at it for as long as I used to in my American doctor's waiting room (in a very nice neighborhood). I also went right in to see him - no sitting around waiting half-dressed in a stupid gown shivering and wondering what the hell was taking so long.

This year I had eye surgery. I was treated well, the outcome was optimal, and I didn't pay a penny for it, even though I lucked into a private room. In a US hospital I would have had a bigger room and probably my own bathroom, but somehow I managed to survive without those things, and I met some nice people, and the anaesthesiologist laughed at my jokes and responded instantly to my concerns.

The optimum range of health care in the US has also been available to me. It's at the National Institutes of Health, and it's free to the end-user - paid for by my taxes. Luckily, I lived near enough to NIH that when I ran into a medical problem that was outside of my price range, I was able to get into their endocrine programm. I couldn't even have afforded to be diagnosed in the US if I'd had to pay for it - I was a student at the time.

So, what exactly do you mean when you talk about how "socialized" medicine is disastrous? The NHS system is even more socialized than single-payer, and yet it seems to me I hear more complaints from my American friends about their medical care that I hear over here.

Posted by: Avedon at October 12, 2003 05:17 AM | PERMALINK

You know, we're not going to be able to keep up a Macy's economy on a Wal-Mart "salary". How are people supposed to be able to buy those big-ticket items like new cars and refrigerators and houses if they make $6.00/hour with a 4-5 percent increase per year?

In Arizona, Wal-Mart is the largest employer by far (nearly 20,000 employees) (per the Arizona Republic). But their benefits suck (also per the Arizona Republic). But in a state where a significant number of the residents live on fixed incomes, the cheapness (in more ways than one) of Wal-Mart insures that they'll be around for a long time to come.

Posted by: Mirele at October 12, 2003 06:56 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Cohen, if turning what began as a civil discussion to suggestions of pulling heads from orifices doesn't qualify as a being a boor, you are too damned dense to have a conversation with.

Now as to whether the median wage earner of today is better off than the median wage earner of 30 years ago, you can join with obe in the dishonest attempt to say that the median wage earner of today would gladly swap places. Perhaps you are like obe in that you are too dense too understand that leukemia RATES are NOT lower today, but leukemia CURES are exponentially HIGHER, thus allowing thousands of children of median wage earners to be playing in the back yard, instead of mouldering in their graves. Do ya' think those median wage earners would say, "Gee whiz, health care was SO much more affordable in 1973, I wish I could have what my counterpart had then, even though it would mean my child would be dead!" The median wage earner of today has better health care, better automobiles, cheaper entertainment, less expensive and a wider variety of food, and countless other advantages over his counterpart of 30 years ago. A larger percentage of the population owns their own home than ever before. They would not switch places. All of this has occurred while union membership has declined. That people like you have an agenda to portray things as worse than they are doesn't obviate these facts. In case obe and you are unable to comprehend the concept of living standards, what counts is what one is able to obtain with the money one earns, and the mediam wage earner of today can obtain far more and better things than the median wage earner of thirty years ago, from less important things like electronic entertainment devices, to more important things like automobiles (seriously, do you really believe that today's median wage earners would swap cars with the median wage earner of thrity years ago), to things of life and death importance, like leukemia treatments.

As to other strawmen you erect, children are incapable of giving informed consent, so my comments regarding the topic has nothing to do with the issue of regulating child labor. You wish to force people to have relationships that they do not find mutually agreeable, simply because you like one side better.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 12, 2003 09:50 AM | PERMALINK

jimbob, this topic deserves a several thousand word treatment, which I don't have time for right now. I appreciate your skepticism, and certainly don't wish to suggest that any ideas I have would result in a world in which health care is not rationed, for it will be no matter what happens. In passing however, I will say that many of your concerns are easily addressed, and that cutting off service to those who have exceeded their allotted benefits is no more politically problematic that cutting off service because someone has reached a certain age, and may be less so, since there are a lot more 70 year olds with expensive needs than there are 18 year olds. In any case to say that nothing new can ever be done, because only what has been tried elsewhere is permissable, is purely reactionary thinking, which, ironically, is a major component of current "progressive" ideology. Finally, as much as you like to avoid it, central planning carries with it unavoidable costs, particularly in a technology-centered endeavor, and when it becomes adopted on a global scale. That you are unwilling to acknowledge these costs does not mean they don't exist, and such avoidance does not help anyone.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 12, 2003 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, Mr. Allen, Mr. Allen, where, oh where, do we begin?

Must I admit that I'm a boor before you will deign to begin each of your posts to me with something other than another lame putdown of my boorishness? If I was guilty of the original ad hominem, surely you have done your bit to keep this nasty flame alive.

Tell you what, Will, I am a boor. It's true. If I retract my statement about what bodily orifice your head is stuck into and instead talk about ostriches with their heads in the sand, will that get you off the dime? No, I don't think so. But I'm willing to make the effort anyway.

The median wage earner has better health care? You have a study that says so? I only have my experiences. Twenty years ago I had a health plan that paid for ninety percent of my costs, no questions asked. And I was the median wage earner. Others in more elite positions may have had 100% coverage. HMOs were unknown. I didn't have to deal with gatekeepers whose job was to deny as many claims as possible contrary to all common sense.

I have at least three times had to have recourse to my State Department of Insurance in order to get insurance to pay a justified claim. No other means, certainly not talking or reasoning, was ever effective. In all cases, my claim was paid in full after the Insurance Dept. intervened. In no case was error ever admitted on their part. How often do you think this goes on? How many people do think even know there is a state Insurance Department? Must be my good union training. You see, I still believe in getting what I have paid for. Many others do not even know they can question an insurance claim denial.

Better automobiles? Maybe. They ought to be better. They cost, what, 10x as much as they did 30 years ago. My income has risen more than the average person's but I don't think it's risen that much.

Cheaper entertainment? Surely you jest. Taken the family to a ball game lately? Used to be a plebian sort of experience. Now it's beyond the reach of the sorts of people who used to fill the stands. Gone to the movies? Wasn't that long ago that $5 was outrageous for a movie. Now they're flirting with $10. Oh, they'll nibble around the edges, $9.50, $9.75, but once they get to $10, it won't be long before they're knocking on the door of $15. Five bucks for a bottle of freaking water.

Ah, "children are incapable of giving informed consent", you do recognize that fact. Congratulations! How convenient then that there are labor brokers in the sweatshop labor countries with whom the representatives of the representatives of the representatives of our American corporations can deal with to procure the labor they need to get their products made without getting their hands visibly dirty.

Nonetheless, when corporations decide they "no longer wish to have relationships" with the workers on whose labor they were built, and instead find "new relationships" that are more "agreeable" to them, it is to these sorts of people that they turn. Why is that irrelevant? And if coercion is used somewhere along the way, well, it's deniable. Sweet!

All right, Will. I will stop abusing you now. But I would hope that you might take from this exchange one thing:

Your belief in "mutual agreements without coercion" as the basis of your anti-union positions is woefully shortsighted because it overlooks the use of coercion in every phase of everyday economic life everywhere except when you're talking about unions. You need to think about that.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at October 12, 2003 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe the message here is...stay in school, go to college, get your degree, and get a decent job in a decent career. 20 years working at Wal-Mart? get no sympathy from me.

Sure...go ahead and give that check-out clerk a big raise...then eliminate some of their jobs. I'm going through the self-scan line every time. One person for six check out lanes instead of six persons. Makes sense to me.

We've got two huge Wal-Marts in my home town in Tennessee (and one Sam's). They employ lots of people. I don't know anyone who took a job there with a gun pointed at his head. Maybe they like the flexibile hours (they are open 24 hours). Maybe they like the work. Most of the employees are younger, short-time staff...not career personnel.

By the way,,,Canadian health care vs. the US? Fact: More people in the U.S. per capita are diagnosed with cancer every year, but more people in Canada actually die from cancer. (from the Canadian Cancer Advocacy Coalition...

Average of 7.3 weeks between the family doc's referral and actually seeing the specialist, and another 9.2 weeks between seeing the specialist and getting treatment. About four months from your first visit about that mole or lump to actually getting treatment?

Take a look at the figures here ( comparing cancer mortality rates in the Canadian provinces with the 50 US states. Almost all the provinces are at the very bottom of the rankings for all forms of cancer.

And this is the type of health care system you think the US should implement? Are you out of your minds? Or did you just no know any better?

Posted by: Robert at October 12, 2003 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, Robert. Whatever you say. Do remember, though, that this decade's "decent job in a decent career" is next decade's dime a dozen.


I hope you chose well not just for your first job, but for the career you'll retire from. If not, well, I guess you won't expect any sympathy from anyone else.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at October 12, 2003 01:11 PM | PERMALINK

"The NHS has worked for around half a century now. Thanks to conservatives dicking around with it under Thatcher and Blair, it has developed a number of glitches, but I still don't see how it is any worse than the US system, although the furniture isn't as nice and the private rooms aren't s big."

You see why it's a bad idea for it to be a political issue what quantity of healthcare people consume? Your fellow citizens should not have a say in your health care consumption, unless they're paying for it, and there's no reason for them to pay for it if you are capable of doing so.

And most people are capable of paying for it. If they weren't then they wouldn't be able to pay the taxes to fund a single payer health care system either.

Maybe Europeans feel differently, but I figure that the fewer personal decisions that our fellow citizens have a say in, the better.

Now the current system isn't working that well. But since problems occur with employers buying health insurance, the obvious solution is to fix the tax code and get employers to stop buying health insurance and pay the cash instead.

"Finally, if one wishes to make the case that housing costs have a terrible impact on poor people, fine, but the best way to do alleviate that is to stop the goverment's interference in housing markets, in the form of zoning laws and other restrictions, so as to allow a more rapid increase in the housing stock. "

Proper police protection in cheap neighborhoods would also be nice. Lots of families are working two jobs just to live in a neighborhood that don't feature vicious predators.

But yeah, zoning laws, "smart growth" initiatives, "anti-sprawl" measures, and a general hostility on the part of governments and activists toward the people that build the places that human beings live in definitely contribute to the problem.

"Will -
I guess you won't take your head out of your ass until your uncommon skill becomes common - like when they farm programming jobs out to India."

Then it'll be high time for American workers to make new things. Like spacecraft. Or cheaper personal aircraft. Or new medicines. Or something else no one has thought of.

When that time comes, the success of the transition will be greatly enhanced if the potential new growth industries are lightly regulated the way that the computer industry was.

"My impression is that in the real world you have two major systems in the developed world - ours, and some form of single payer everywhere else. If our system collapses we'll have to choose between what the rest of the world does or some new system no one's ever tried."

Or we can pick the system we tried before cash wage controls during WWII first induced employers to offer health insurance in lieu of cash. That is, people get paid in cash, and buy catastrophic health insurance and routine health care with it.

Posted by: Ken at October 12, 2003 06:16 PM | PERMALINK

"even if you work full time that only comes to $37,000 a year"
BOO-FREEKIN-HOO. A king's ransom for "paper or plastic."

"These jobs, of course, are not under pressure from overseas"
soooooo, customers will board ships to Borneo to get the low paid native clerks to scan the Doritos?

Posted by: fnyser at October 13, 2003 07:13 AM | PERMALINK

mike and others talking about single payer health care and wondering why there is opposition - have you wondered why Europe is privatizing health care? single payer sucks.

Y'all realize that single payer is basically a nation wide HMO, right? You know all those complaints that people have with HMO's, well imagine the social security admin being in charge of the only one.

Posted by: fnyser at October 13, 2003 07:17 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Cohen, If you were to go inform any median income earner who was also a cancer patient, heart patient, diabetes patient, or suffering from any number of other maladies, that they would now be forced to receive the treatments available 30 years ago, because in your oh-so-simple mental machinations, the median income earner had it better then, these patients would likely consider you legally insane, since these median wage earners/patients are not idiots, and they realize that receiving the same medical care as what was available 30 years ago to the median earner would greatly increase their likelihood of dying. Somehow, you have reached the conclusion that the median earner of today would prefer to die. As hard as it may be for you to believe, the median wage earner of today would actually prefer to live, and thus would not swap health care with the median wage earner of 30 years ago.

As to entertainment, there has been a device made called a VCR. You may wish to investigate it. It allows an entire family to watch a recently filmed movie for two or three dollars. There is also this thing called cable T.V. now. A baseball fan can now watch dozens, if not hundreds, more games in the course of season, for approximately $200-$300 year, while also gaining access to endless other sporting events. And guess what! The VCR (which now can be purchased for as little as $49.99!) allows a family to watch sporting events whever they wish! You really need to get out more often.

As to cars; I tell ya what: You open a car lot selling the the equivalent of new 1973 Chevy Vegas, and I'll open one selling 5 year old used Honda Civics at the same price. Within 6 months, you will be out of business, and I'll be making a good living, because people, most of whom have BELOW median wage, will consider your products markedly inferior.

Finally, when you decide to turn what was a civil conversation into an invective-filled exchange, it is you who bears the responsibility for the way the conversation turned out.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 13, 2003 07:47 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting thread, with that dual union/wages versus health care focus.

I'm very late in but cannot resist a couple of comments.

On health care:

All or nearly all industrialized countries have health care systems that are a mix of government pay and private pay. The differences come in what the mix is and whether the government is the sole payer in certain parts of the system (e.g. hospitals and doctors).

On health care rationing, all systems (including the USA's) ration care, it is simply organized differently. Rationing in e.g. Canada is done through the infamous waiting lists for treatment mentioned by Robert and others. What many in the US seem blind to however, is that the US system rations care by different means:

1. Those without insurance (40+ million) self-ration their use because they cannot afford it. (Good if they don't see a doctor about a sniffle, bad and expensive if they don't get care for chronic conditions or early enough to make a difference).

2. Those with some coverage through HMO's (how many million?) are rationed by the HMO which is trying to contain costs, sometimes overtly and sometimes covertly (many doctors simply won't tell the patient about possible treatment options that are not covered).

3. Then there are smaller subgroups of the population that have their access to health care seriously curtailed, prison inmates for example.


Posted by: Yukoner at October 13, 2003 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Allen:

Where is it written that if one wants the medical technology of today, one must also accept the sleazy tactics used to ration access to that care? You seem to think they are inseparable. Why is it inevitable that because medical technology has advanced, one must accept being dehumanized when dealing with the insurance companies and other gatekeepers of the system?

A neat (and dishonest) trick how you turn that into the notion that I want sick people to die, when the whole drift of current policy is to ration health care by income and force the poor to choose between food and medicine.

Will, did you perhaps walk out in protest of the movie "As Good as it Gets" when the Helen Hunt character let loose her invective-laced tirade against the much maligned health care system? Most of the people in the theater the night I went to see that picture clapped loudly. Maybe YOU need to get out more.

And yes, I do have a VCR or I did, until it died and I replaced it with a DVD player. And while these devices do have their advantages they haven't replaced "going out to the movies" - see, I do like to go out, and will not accept the watered down small-screen version as an equivalent. The admission charge you used to pay for going out to a movie now buys you a seat on your own couch watching the movie on a small screen. Either way, it doesn't prove that entertainment has gotten cheaper, unless you want to compare apples to oranges. A candy bar probably costs as much as it did when I was kid too, which is great but then, of course, it's maybe a fourth the size.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at October 13, 2003 06:08 PM | PERMALINK

"Where is it written that if one wants the medical technology of today, one must also accept the sleazy tactics used to ration access to that care?"

You mean being asked to pay for services rendered?

Damn, look like every time I want to buy something, I must accept those same sleazy tactics used to ration access to it.

(I'm getting hungry. Guess I'll have to accept those sleazy tactics used to ration access to groceries)

"You seem to think they are inseparable. Why is it inevitable that because medical technology has advanced, one must accept being dehumanized when dealing with the insurance companies and other gatekeepers of the system? "

The reason that insurance companies aren't especially interested in your welfare is because you aren't their customer. Your employer is. He picks the plan, pays the premiums (instead of paying you), and generally calls the shots, but is not using your plan. This is not a recipe for getting good customer service.

Change the tax incentives, so that we get paid in cash and buy our own policy, and our insurance companies will be a lot more responsive to our needs.

Drop all the laws forbidding scaled down coverage (i.e., no coverage allowed unless it includes birth control pills), and our needs get met even more precisely.

But at the very least, if you're fighting for your life, you can spend your entire savings and buy all the treatment you need to put up a good fight, and no one will stop you. That's definitely a feature worth keeping.

"And yes, I do have a VCR or I did, until it died and I replaced it with a DVD player. And while these devices do have their advantages they haven't replaced "going out to the movies" - see, I do like to go out, and will not accept the watered down small-screen version as an equivalent. The admission charge you used to pay for going out to a movie now buys you a seat on your own couch watching the movie on a small screen. "

Actually, adjusted for inflation, the admission charge you used to pay for going out to a movie buys you a seat on your own couch watching several movies on the small screen.

Oh yeah, and that screen has gotten bigger over the years, given the same amount of money spent on it.

Posted by: Ken at October 13, 2003 06:57 PM | PERMALINK

Steve...thank you. You illustrated my point perfectly. Yes, in today's society we may actually need to change careers mid-stream...maybe even switched a couple of times...and yes, I have also. Went back and got my masters after being in the professional world for eight years. All the more reason why someone who chooses to work as a grocery clerk for twenty years does not get my sympathy. You're absolutely right...I won't expect a bit of sympathy from anyone else.

Posted by: Robert at October 13, 2003 08:54 PM | PERMALINK

Yukoner, speaking from personal experience, my wife was treated for melanoma in 1993. It was dealt with quickly before it had a chancen to metastasize. If she had been forced to endure a Canadian style waitling system, she might easily be dead by now.

Posted by: Robert at October 13, 2003 08:58 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Cohen, read this very carefully. The point of dispute was whether the median wage earner of today would willingly swap with the median wage earner of 30 years ago, including in the area of health care. Now, it is undeniable that if the median wage earner of today were forced into this swap, a great many of them would be dead, instead of enjoying their lives, due to the advancements in health care technology in the past thirty years. Thus, unless one wishes to state that death is preferable to life, it is monumentally, titanically, undeniably, idiotic to state that the median wage earner of thirty years ago received better health care. Also, you are equally misinformed about the real cost of entertainment in 2003, as opposed to 1973, as Ken has pointed out. Somehow, you have become so historically delusional, in an effort to view current living stndards as being worse, that you have entered a weird alternate reality where death is better than life, and more actually means less. This is unfortunate.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 14, 2003 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

I've been out photoblogging picket lines and talking to the people today. I used to be a member of this union (about 20 years ago). I was on the east coast then and we never did strike in my 5 years with that company as a Local 400 member (Washington DC area), but I seem recall being told that we had the power of truck drivers behind us and that they would stop delivering to stores if we ever did go on strike. Aren't truckers in California unionized? I didn't ask anyone today, but it seems to me that unions are weaker than ever. See the link below for pics from today. This is getting publicized, so there will be a lot more tomorrow and some of the people I spoke with are posting comments as well.

Posted by: Shawn Honnick at October 14, 2003 01:25 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Yukoner, your attempt to compare waiting lists in Canada with what you call America's version of "rationed" services falls flat on its face. No matter what you call it or how you describe it, if you have cancer, your odds of dying are much higher in Canada. Go back and read the actually Canadian statistics. The statistics are per capita; they don't differentiate between rich and poor. In the US, you are more likely to de diagnosed with cancer. Rich or poor, you are more likely to actually get in to see a doctor and get a diagnosis. But you are far more likely to die from the disease in Canada, because in the US you are more likely to be treated promptly, no matter what your income. For each cancer listed, when combined with the 50 US States, there are usually 8 or 9 of the territories in the bottom 48 to 62. And Yukoner...better watch that dietary fiber. Yukon...61 out of 62 for colon cancer mortality rates among men.

Posted by: Robert at October 14, 2003 03:37 AM | PERMALINK

>> You mean being asked to pay for services rendered?

Uh, no, Ken. That wasn't what I was referring to. I was referring things like having to fight for six months over an $11000 bill with Blue Cross who said that the brain biopsy my wife had to get for her brain tumor was "out of network". As though we had gotten the brain biopsy on some kind of lark. Minor, petty stuff like that.

Yes, Will, the health care available today is better, I have never denied that. But you are in denial if you think the service with which this care is delivered is not much worse than it used to be.

And Will, thanks very much for informing me what the topic of discussion was. Without your help, I, I, I just don't know how I'd keep it straight.

Oh, by the way, would you care to take a crack at this one? I can't help but notice you've forgotten to:

"Your belief in "mutual agreements without coercion" as the basis of your anti-union positions is woefully shortsighted because it overlooks the use of coercion in every phase of everyday economic life everywhere except when you're talking about unions. "

Posted by: Steve Cohen at October 14, 2003 04:51 AM | PERMALINK

Mr. Cohen, if you knew what topic was, why did you avoid it so strenuously? You disputed the notion that the median wage earner of 2003 enjoyed a higher standard of living than the median wage earner of thirty years ago, a period during which union membership has declined considerably.

Now, after several hundred words have been employed to establish what is patently obvious to anyone with a modest degree of intellectual honesty, that increased union membership is not integral to improving living standards for the mdeian wage earner (although I am intrigued by the notion that people received better "service" when they died at higher rates), you return to your valiant battle with the straw-man that you erected; that the issue of regulating child labor has anything to do with the contention that adult citizens should be left to join into mutually agreeable relationships whenever possible. Although it has been established (after much avoidance) that living standards for median wage earners can improve while union membership declines, feel free to explain why implicitly violent state-sponsored coercion must be employed to force people into relationships with unions.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 14, 2003 07:23 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, pal, it's you who have sidetracked this discussion. It started off about a grocery lockout, remember?

I have not admitted that the average wage earner enjoys a higher standard of living than his precursor. I "admitted", not that I ever denied it, that there are now technologies which did not previously exist and are of benefit. What I have not admitted is that my utilization of these technologies bound me to a social contract that made me a serf to their providers.

You think I wasn't grateful for the advanced medical technologies that saved my wife's life? Will, I'll spare your oh so tender ears and not tell you what you can do with that one. Nonetheless, I reserve my right not to have been happy with Blue Cross which made me fight with them for six months while all this was going on to provide the service that they were previously only too glad to accept the fee for.

You don't think that child labor policies in various countries are in any way relevant to movement of jobs out of the United States? What planet are you living on?

Posted by: Steve Cohen at October 14, 2003 07:41 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, I see... median wage earners today enjoy better quality health care (the contractual dispute you had does not obviate the fact that your wife received higher quality care than her counterpart would have received 30 years ago;is that really so difficult to grasp?), drive higher quality automobiles, enjoy larger amounts and variety of entertainment, eat higher quality and variety of food, and home ownership is at a higher percentage than 30 years ago, standards for median wage earners are not higher.(!) This conversation may be useless, given that the logic you employ is not of this planet.

As to other experiments in illogic, whether it is moral and of utility to regulate child labor has nothing to do with whether adult citizens in this country should be compelled by the state to negotiate with or join unions. Yes, child labor overseas may encourage jobs to move off-shore, but regulating the import of goods and services produced by off-shore child or slave labor does not logically entail state-compelled relationships with unions within this country. The state could completely ban the import of goods and services produced by children, while remaining completely mute as to whether citizens should be compelled to join or negotiate with unions. Is logic really such a challenge for you?

Posted by: Will Allen at October 14, 2003 08:43 AM | PERMALINK

I'm glad to hear that your wife's cancer was treated succesfully.

My point on health care rationing was not to somehow try to say that Canada's rationing system is better or worse than the USA's rationing system, just that I find it odd that many Americans do not believe that there is any rationing in the US.

On your cancer statistics, I have not gone to look at the numbers but will take your word for it. I would be cautious about using the figures for a single disease (or group of related diseases) as "proof" that one system is better than another, however. I wonder how long it would take to find other diseases where the outcomes are better overall in Canada? (I think there must be some, otherwise how to explain the better overall indicators such as life expectancy, healthy life expectancy, infant mortality per capita, adult mortality per capita, etc.).

By the way, I don't believe that the oft repeated arguments about which health care system is "better" is all that useful as it tends to assume that we have a choice between two fixed way of doing things. We both have mixed systems (public and private) each with its strengths and weaknesses and each needing reform to improve.


Posted by: Yukoner at October 14, 2003 09:50 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Yukoner, for a breath of fresh air.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 14, 2003 09:58 AM | PERMALINK

One of the things that keeps the Canadian health care system stable is that consumers with the money can hop over the border to get treated in the American system. However, as the available range of options in health care gets more and more costly, the system does get squeezed. Transplants and twenty-ounce preemies certainly take more than average resources. First-dollar coverage also increases load on the system, but it's really hard to find a way to change that without putting a disproportionate burden on lower-income people.

Currently in BC we have the government contracting out services at hospitals, unilaterally changing 'binding' contracts with irreplaceable unions, closing hospitals serving rural areas, insisting on horrible working conditions for staff, and then complaining that they can't attract enough staff. Hm, perhaps there's a correlation...

On the other hand, when my doctor decided to send me for a sonogram for a 'faintly suspicious' bit of lumpiness, I was on the table three days later. (Verdict: yup, I'm a little lumpy inside, in some very common and fairly harmless ways.) The waits for many things are horribly bad, it's a critical shortcoming of the system. On the other hand, we don't have the problem of women who can't afford pre-natal visits.

A hybrid system would probably work best, with some combination of services covered from the first dollar (some examples: pre-natal care, setting broken bones, flu shots for the elderly, childhood immunizations), services with a sliding-scale capped deductible (adult dental care, generally-healthy-person visits for colds and flu), services with a free quota after which a sliding-scale capped co-pay comes into play, and services not covered (laser eye surgery, cosmetic plastic surgery).

When I say sliding scale, I don't mean only for the desperately poor - I mean a scale that slides all the way up the scale. Linked to tax bracket is one simplistic method.

Also, not all price-driven economies are equally bad. Nurse practitioners, for example, could handle a lot of routine care if they were used here. Home health care is subject to a lot of abuses, but there has to be a way to keep people from sending disabled kids or frail elders into expensive full-time care because they don't have the resources to take care of them at home.

Posted by: Aliza at October 14, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

I support the supermarket workers wholeheartedly and will not cross the picket lines. I see this Wal-Marting of American jobs as an another assault on middle class Americans. I am an Aerospace employee with dwindling medical coverage. I won't even retire with medical coverage! McDonnell Douglas took care of that several years ago. For these reasons, I salute the striking supermarket workers. I just wish I had a union to represent my interests.

Posted by: Theresa Hew at October 14, 2003 08:02 PM | PERMALINK

Lockout these nuts!!! I swear this sh*t is gonna hit the fan... soon. I work for Albertson's in Oxnard, Ca and I belong to UFCW 1036. We can't just be content for these greedy owners to let these no-good scabs run our stores into the ground. I appreciate all the customers who support us and choose to spend their hard-earned money elsewhere. But, it's time to send a message to the owners... Greedy-Ass Bastards

UFCW local 1036

Posted by: liljimjunior at October 16, 2003 01:39 AM | PERMALINK

you guys think you are highly skilled and non replacable workers.. wake up!
Anyway you look at it your still unskilled labor making way more than other similar type jobs.
I do not doubt that you guys work hard, Its not a career path I would take, but landscapers dont make 17 dollars an hour, and they work like donkeys, the same is true for other back breaking jobs, they dont pay because anybody can do it.
Stocking shelves, cutting meat, scanning bar codes is manual labor, not college grad type work.
These types of jobs are meant as part time work, for students or semi retired people, not a career.
It has been artificially turned into a viable career by your union.
Go into any gas station, convenience store, tower records, wall mart etc. etc... and you will find folks doing your type of work for much much less.
Look at the people that are working your positions right now, they are not very intelligent looking people but they are doing your work, and in a few weeks they will be doing it just as good as you guys did.
Your union is selling you a lie, we all are replacable
I am a master ase licensed auto tech specializing in electronic engine controlls, I do the technical work and leave the dirty work to the other non skilled guys.
They work very hard, much harder than you folks, but they only make 8 per hour, and they are glad they are working.
Hard work doesnt equal high hourly rate, at least not in the real world.
If you have a skill that is special, and that few people have, that equalls high pay.
You guy have it good and you dont even realize it.
Unions have their place and they are important, but your future is connected with your companys well being.
Wallmart is lean and efficient, and they are opening up food market, they are non union and they operate very smoothly.
You guys can not compete with them in your present trim.
The people honking their horns in support of you today will be shopping at these new type stores tommorow, if they can save a penny or two.
All of us are replacable, dont buy into that union hype.

Posted by: jason andrew at October 17, 2003 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

You know what a supermarket scab is?
Its a person who can stock shelves, mop floors, scan a bag of doritos, and pronounce
"paper or plastic" halfway decent, and doesnt need 17 dollars per hour and fully paid health care in order to do it.........
Those bastard scabs, if they are not stopped the american middle class will cease to exist..

Posted by: ken at October 17, 2003 01:03 AM | PERMALINK

To all supermarket workers, all I have to say is "if you dont like it quit, if your not going to quit shut up and get back to work!

Posted by: joe at October 17, 2003 07:09 PM | PERMALINK

I just have a few short comments:

Grocery Workers you are not skilled workers. I scan my merchandise at Home Depot, I can do it at the grocery store.

I will cross your picket line when I need to because I, unlike you have a job to go to everyday, where I work in excess of 10 hours every day, and do not have the time to drive past 5 grocery stores to the one across town where you're not picketing and where it takes me twice as long to shop because I don't know where anything is. However, If you force me to shop at another store (not because I support you and don't want to cross your picket line, but because some days I just don't need the stress), then I just might not come back to your store if you ever go back to work. If enough of us do that, you'll be successful, the store won't be making its great profits, but then, it just might have to lay some of you off.

Most of the people I've talked to aren't crossing the picket line, not because they support you, but because they're afraid. Afraid you'll hassle them, attack them or vandalise their cars. Think about that. That's not suppoort unless you're content to be thought of as bullies and like having people afraid of you.

Posted by: Chris at October 17, 2003 08:19 PM | PERMALINK

let's say you earn $70k. next year you make $55k. ?. grocery deemed not a career by the public. ?. if i die doin it, it was my career. 15.5yrs in. smart as a bag of hammers. 3wks training i can also do your job/career. i'm a people person not a solder pusher. learn that in 3wks. 90% of store level employees part time. so-cal poverty level. fork in your mouth. remember who filled it. ex 1994 webmaster on grocery/apple-stacker LOCK OUT xoxo~

Posted by: Mark at October 17, 2003 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

why is your car in the parking lot in the first place?

Posted by: Mark at October 18, 2003 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

*Workers are not asking for more--they just want to keep their current health care benefits.

*The companies' profits are 91% higher than four years ago. They don't have to cut worker benefits. It's just a matter of greed. (Combined operating profits have increased from $5.1 billion to $9.7 billion from 1998 through 2002)

*Over the past 10 years, the companies' profits have risen 10 times faster than the employers' contribution for worker health benefits. (From 1993 to 2003, the employers' hourly contribution for worker health care increased 28% while corporate profits went up 271%.)

*The companies' want to shift a billion dollars in health care costs to the workers. They say they only want workers to pay $5 to $15 per week for their coverage--but under their proposal, worker coverage would be cut 50%. New hires would effectively not have any real health care protection at all.

*The workers are fighting to save affordable health insurance for all workers--union and non-union, current and future grocery workers, everywhere in America. If supersized, super-profitable supermarket giants can cut their health benefits, all workers are at risk.

*If the employers win, all of Southern California loses. These companies would drain over $700 million a year from the area--when they cut health care for workers, they rip off California. (For every dollar they cut in workers health care benefits, they take $2.08 out of the Southern California economy.)

Please show support for these workers!


sorry for the cut/paste~

Posted by: Mark at October 18, 2003 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

oh, did i mention the 2 tier system jack move?

Posted by: Mark at October 18, 2003 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

A few days ago i found something that surprised me a lot.
My futur father in law has worked as a u.s. customs agent for almost 30 years, and guess what?
He pays 100 per month for health insurance for him and his wife!
It was higher till both his kids were too old to be covered.
I pay 183 per month to kaiser health plan for coverage for myself only.
Everybody either pays all or contributes at least a percentage for health care, even government employees!
Dont buy that union hype about being irreplaceable
they feed you that nonsense, your working in a job that requires no college degree or any real technical training, its hard physical work, but doesnt require much brain power.
Thats not to say that some of you guys dont have degrees, my ex flight instructor worked, i believe at either ralphs or vons, but its not required for the job that you do.
A lot of guys start working there while going to school, and get trapped by the high hourly pay.
Its not a real career, its was created artifiacialy by the union.
People at wallmart are doing your job, and doing it very well for much much less.
You are replacable, and actually have been replaced, there are people already doing your jobs.
And guess what, they cant believe you folks couldnt do it, for they pay that they are now recieving.
The people that i know and my customers i have talked too are not supporting you, they are staying away out of fear or to avoid the akwardness, thats not real support, it will get worse for you as time goes by, people dont want to drive across town just cause you dont want to pay YOUR share for YOUR health care.

Posted by: chris at October 18, 2003 08:22 PM | PERMALINK

if you don't know the entire contract proposal, please don't comment~

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

everybody is replacable

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

hey mark, if our car is in the parking lot is it a legitimate target?
Just because we dont feel sorry for your poor wages, my husband showed me your ridiculous contract, its on the internet.
30 per hour for head meatcutters on sunday.
What we pay for insurance for our family is almost 400 per MONTH.
Stop your crying, ask anyone on the street, and ask what they pay for health care.
You all are a bunch of crybabies.

Posted by: debby at October 19, 2003 05:22 PM | PERMALINK

?car? 400 wow. what's your deductible, co-pay, prescription coverage? you are truly gettin a groovy deal. yes the MANAGER MEAT CUTTER gets 31$ per hour on sun (average sales are 17000$/sun) 90% are part-time/24 hours wk, 15 yrs service~
post a link to the NEW i said NEW proposal/contract
xoxo never cried

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 06:30 PM | PERMALINK

it was great while it lasted~ would've liked to see it go in small pieces instead of all at once. farewell middle class~

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 06:37 PM | PERMALINK

hello greed

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 06:42 PM | PERMALINK

The current contract as of oct 5 2003
If you only work 24 hours a week, than you dont have a full time job.
If you dont have a full time job, than you cant complain that you dont make enough per year!
At my job, I dont compare my paycheck with what my boss makes.
I compare it with what other people in my positions are making.
Thats a combination of licenses, training, tools and years doing what I do.
That and on that, determines what my hourly rate is worth.
Your rule to go by is what other people make in similar type jobs that you do.
Such as wallmart or targer or circuit city etc etc..
You are making top dollar when you look at it that way, and this new offer is obscene, unions are good and bad, they promote job saftey worker rights and so on.
But when they are bad they are very bad, its like a leach sucking as much blood as they can, just cause they can.

Posted by: jason at October 19, 2003 06:51 PM | PERMALINK

The new contract is at
if people see it they would be shocked, just as i was.
stop whinning and get back to work or quit, your like a bunch of sissy girls throwing a temper tantrum.

Posted by: debby at October 19, 2003 06:57 PM | PERMALINK

I am work part time at target while attending collage.
They only pay me 9.65 per hour but I am happy with the flexible hours, its ok, I cant complain.
Most of the people that work here are students or people who need a little extra money working part time.
I have a few freinds who are now on strike across the street at the albertsons, so I wont shop there till this is over.
But you have no reason to be striking really, we all are working for much less, and we still get the job done and give good customer care.
I hope this is over soon, because people are getting wierd over this issue.

Posted by: erica at October 19, 2003 07:08 PM | PERMALINK

here it is~

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 07:11 PM | PERMALINK

I have a full/all of my time job also. but i do enjoy the part-time grocery/apple stackin job at the market. i like people. lately i just like them more when they are not around~

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 07:23 PM | PERMALINK

Go to they have info on how corrupt these unions are, or just type union corruption into any search engine.
One of the very worst is the ibt ie teamsters,
quoted as being a crime organization in all except name.
The government have used rico laws against them to put leader in prison, ricco is usually reserved for the mafia and other criminal organizations.
The main issue for the union is that new hires will be paid less than current employees.
Smaller paychecks equals less union dues.
The current employees are pretty much grandfathered in theres nothing the stores can do to drasticly alter their pay and benefits, the new guys will not recieve the same great perks.
The union might as well say they are fighting for the rights of unborn future vons workers.
The union only cares about keeping their power, now and in the future.
If the worker benefits by their action in was more an accident then plan..

Posted by: jason at October 19, 2003 07:41 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, don't shop union worker stores or buy union worker made cars/trucks/suv's~

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 07:45 PM | PERMALINK

us blue/white collar workers suck

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 07:47 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 07:48 PM | PERMALINK

My comment is that these stores suck anyway.
I shop at food 4 less.
The prices are so much lower because they dont have to pay their employees 20 an hour to sack groceries.
I hope they all go broke, the managment is crooks and the employees are a diffferent side of the same coin.
Why is it so much more to buy the same product at vons or albertsons?
And why those workers need 20 and hour when food for less are way less for the same job?
I say they deserve each other, screw em all.

Posted by: loris at October 19, 2003 07:50 PM | PERMALINK

doin my part to lower health care costs for EVERYONE yes everyone

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 07:51 PM | PERMALINK

food 4 less~ amen

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 07:53 PM | PERMALINK

wait till you see the prices after the strike/lockout~

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 07:58 PM | PERMALINK

What we need to do is to get serios with these motherfuckers, theyre walking through our lines like we are not even there.
These cowards cant even look me in the eye.
This is my store, they only stay for a short time and then leave.
I fuckin work here this is my life.
How dare they not respect us.
I have been serving these assholes for almost 8 years and this is what i get?
and where are the teamsters when we need them.
they were suposed to stop driving the trucks supplying these fuckers.
Nothing but talk, Ill wont forget.
we need to start busting heads, then they will think twice before ignoring us.
and if some goddamn scabs end up in the hospital or accidentaly dead then these greedy bastards will think twice before trying to screw us.
I am pissed off, im tired of being nice.
where is this getting us anyway...

Posted by: ron at October 19, 2003 08:37 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, let's kill all those non-supporters. or at least pepper spray em

Posted by: Mark at October 19, 2003 08:48 PM | PERMALINK

i support the strike 100% because i know what the contract says and and my family went to our local ralphs and joined the picket line good luck everyone that matters...screw you ppl that dont have a clue

Posted by: holly at October 19, 2003 09:15 PM | PERMALINK

Education is the key. I am sure that the majority of grocery workers do not have a college education. Finding a job with a college education is hard enough. If they get what they want the costs will be passed on the to consumer like it always is. It's good to know that the general career oriented population is paying for the other persons "bad career move".

Do these workers realize that they are getting the shaft by the union. They are paying a percentage of their paycheck to the union every week.

They are getting paid by the union while they're on strike, right? Ya, right.

Healthcare costs are rising everywhere, I work for a company that has a 27 billion dollar market cap. The same hard decisions where made at my company also.

Let's go back to work.

Posted by: Jason at October 22, 2003 08:52 AM | PERMALINK

whats the diference between you idiots and terorists?
Kill somebody because they dont agree with you?
Or pepper spray them because they want to buy some food?
If thats your idea of justice, you are nothing but animals!
Unions have gotten a bad rap because of people like yourselves.
Uneducated, unskilled criminal behavior, typical union tactics.
Stop your sniveling, get back to work or quit.
Heres a news flash.... everyone payes for health care, youve been getting a free ride for a long time already, now you guys have to contribute, big deal, the rest of us have been paying for decades.
You would rather kill people, than pay?

Posted by: luke at October 23, 2003 09:57 PM | PERMALINK

So where are you shopping for groceries these days? A few people are still going to the picketed supermarkets because they think grocery workers have it too good. It's the old Soviet mentality: Don't lift yourself up, drag the others down.

$40k salary plus $20k worth of benefits stackin apples part time~
You so called "educated" people are nothing but a bunch of john & ken playstation generation melonheads.
so take the time to think about that when you jump in your union worker made suv's & drop your kids off at your union teacher schools then shop at your union worker supermarkets~
ps. Albertsons, Ralphs, & Vons will lose the battle

Posted by: Mark at October 24, 2003 02:57 AM | PERMALINK

why do i like to read the negative posts? so i can put a face on the 6% smart as a bag of hammers educated people that cross the picket line~
ps. quit makin fools of yourselves, shop elsewhere~

Posted by: Mark at October 24, 2003 03:13 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: TERESA at October 30, 2003 01:20 PM | PERMALINK

i just want to say to all of you that are still striking...keep up the fight you have earned the right to good benifits... i have 3 children with med. problems and my husband works for stater bros. so we will end up with the same contract you get..i was proud when me and the kids walked in the line ..and my children were proud to be apart of somthing to try and save their benifits.. please keep up the good family is fighting with you and praying for all of you that this will have a happy ending god bless you all

Posted by: Holly at November 8, 2003 08:30 PM | PERMALINK

mark...i have to say that i have enjoyed all of your posts...pls keep up the good work and good luck to you and your family on the strike

Posted by: Holly at November 18, 2003 09:23 AM | PERMALINK

QUOTE: Heres a news flash.... everyone payes for health care, youve been getting a free ride for a long time already, now you guys have to contribute, big deal, the rest of us have been paying for decades.
You would rather kill people, than pay? Luke..

Listen up Lamer... First things first..... The people who make unions bad are the ones that decide they would rather party or make some excuse to call off and get fired and somehow someway get their job back...... that might be 1% of the total Union Population... Now to paying for Health Care.... I'm in a Union and HAVE NO PROBLEM paying a Copay for me, my wife and children..... But you must be looking at the LA Times and listening to that bullshit that the Big Three Losers are saying....... It's really funny how they have forgotten to mention that YES they want us to pay a Co-Pay..... But they are ELIMINATING Vision and Dental Benefits..... The worker must pay Half of a Surgery.... so if your wife is all fucked up from some accident and her medical costs running 50,000 dollars... THEN YOU will pay $25,000???? or pay half for all Prescriptions... so if you have a 300 dollar prescription.. HEY NO PROBLEM i'll cover that 150 dollars... SHIT.. last i checked The Grocery Business doesn't pay like Hollywood Movies.......So Luke ... how about getting your head outta your ass and waking up to the Real World....... Don't be talking about something you have no fucking idea about........ oh yeah..... Shop somewhere else.... unless that is..... you like Rotten Food from the Big 3....

Posted by: LoD at November 18, 2003 09:33 AM | PERMALINK

you guys don't understand what this strike is about. most of the employees at the supermarkets have this job as a career. They only work abot 30 hrs. a week and make 17.90 an hr. which adds up to 17,000.00 a year. if you are supporting a family this just doesn't cut it to pay medical and all other benifits that they have. and by the way they do more than ask "Paper or plastic" so don't be stupid and try to understand what this strike is really about.

Posted by: daniel at November 20, 2003 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Great Post Daniel... only when you add up your numbers bro it comes out to about 25,576 or close to it hehehe....

People just don't understand about this strike they think The Union is Crying ... blah blah blah... People that have worked 20 years in the Grocery Industry that have supported their families and even those that have worked 4 years... It's their job, their life, their means of life....... The Company's have grossed 28 billion dollars in their respective First Quarters of 2003.... So don't try and tell me some bullsh*t that We can't afford Benefits........ NO ONE in the Union has a Problem with the CO Pay...... But accepting a Co Pay and Then TAKING our Vision and Dental INSURANCE??? The Company can stand back and watch that Christmas Bonus Circle the Drain......Because Thats a bunch of Bullsh*t...... and No One In the Grocery Buisness is going to go back for that crap...... What the Hell am i going to do Tell my Children...... Ummmm Your going to be Blind and Have No Fricking Teeth because the Company i work for SUCKS and won't pay for our benefits and Your Mommy or Daddy can't afford the Insurance to help you out...... I'm sorry My Son or Daughter.......

Posted by: LoD at November 21, 2003 08:42 AM | PERMALINK

This whole thing is a big laugh. We live in a Capitalist Society (just in case some of you didn't know). If you don't like, or make enough money on your job then find another. Sorry if I am not sympathetic to the grocery store clerk but I just don't see the problem. If your cost of living is higher than your income that is a problem...go to school or suffer the consequences of your decisions. Whatever you do don't make me pay for it.

Posted by: jjc at November 25, 2003 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

I just want to say that I for one support the strike. I know its an inconvenience for some to have to drive the two extra miles to Stater Brothers or Ralphs to get their food... (Maybe plan ahead and make sure you have extra stuff and save the trip?) And I also understand being angry when strikers say things in anger to line crossers. I don't like to be insulted either.
The truth is this... Because the supermarket chains have decided to put it to the unions and bust them there is going to be a horrible chain of events.
Maybe some people like the idea of automatic check out devices and security reciept checkers at the doors of your stores. Having them probe through your goods to see if you've paid for it all. Security devices will have to replace (have a nice day.) with BEEP, BEEP, BEEP! WARNING YOU'VE ACTIVATED THE STORES SECURITY FEATURE PLEASE STEP BACK AND LET THE SECURITY AGENT CHECK YOUR BAGS FOR UNPAID ITEMS!
Not only that but think about this... Some Grocery Clerks are single moms and dads that have families and can't afford to work a minimum wage job while trying to go back to school... NOT EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING ELSE OR SOMEONE TO FALL BACK ON! Many of them didn't finish high school or couldn't afford college. Their job offers them an opertunity to make a good wage with out having to eat rice and not afford clothes and food for their kids. Do you really want them all going to the wellfare office to supplement their income and eat up our tax dollars? Well thats what it leads to! To try and push the low end out of the loop taking away their wages and room for advancement and then charging them (TRUST ME THEY DON'T MAKE AS MUCH MONEY AS SOME OF YOU THINK THEY DO!) more for healthcare so that the fat cats that see trouble on the horizon can have their bottom line come out on top... To me it sounds like the rich giving it to the poor to save thier own butts.
I can't advocate crossing the lines for any reason then for your own personal comfort. You know that if the strike ended tomorrow you'd be out there at the same stores getting your goods.
Target and Wal Mart are just convient one stop places to shop. I for one would still visit my local Vons to get my food rather then just visit Target because WELL HECK ITS TARGET.
I support the strike, I hope that the strike ends soon and that the supermarket chains and the clerks can come to an agreement.

Posted by: apone at November 25, 2003 05:53 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone even considered the Insurance companies here? I don't think that the employees are the problem necessarily because they need to provide for their families. The unions aren't the problem because they are trying to stay in business (or not... not sure about that). I think the people we need to be pointing fingers at here is the insurance people who are raising the stakes so that the unions can no longer handle them for the employees... just a thought. I consider the markets and the people equal victims in this... although I do agree that the "higher-up" people could be paid a few less dollars.

Posted by: Elsie at December 2, 2003 08:09 PM | PERMALINK

i currently work for a ralphs store in the LA area, and i find it so funny how ppl react to this whole thing...i went and applied because i have bills that need to be paid... and the only strikers that i ahve any kind of respect for are the one who have gotten another job and still walk the picket lines when they have time, that way there family is being supported... yelling names at ppl that make your paycheck possible is really messed up... my mother in law is on the heart team at a local hospital and she has to pay for health insurance... and she has to pay 3X's what the stores are asking for... as many ppl say if you don't like your job go out and look for something thats gonna offer you what your looking for...even though im getting paid really well i would never want to do this all my life im 22 and with in a year i will be working at a hospital or for a doctor as a nurse... and sh*t man if wan wanna b*tch a someone go to the main office not outside a store where all you do is scare old ladies and use words most parents don't want nor need there little kids to hear

Posted by: julie at December 3, 2003 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

this is more than an issue with supermarkets, insurance, workers, unions, exec's, etc. it is about people making the correct decisions in life. if you didn't finish high school or college and don't have a good job then, DON'T START A FAMILY. i flip flop on the strike issue because there is so much involved corporate greed vs. humanity (this one will probably exist until the end of time).

but i will say this. for those supermarket workers who say "i have a family to support." you shouldn't have started a family! don't write checks yo ucan't cash. if you want to support a family then plan to do so. don't be stupid and think you will go become a checker at a supermarket and things wil be okay. good grief, people. if yo uwant corporate pay and benefits then go get a corporate job. otherwise...shut up already.

Posted by: mike at December 8, 2003 05:18 PM | PERMALINK

these people need to understand that they put food in a bag. i'm sorry if they have no ambition to better their living conditions, but i don't see how one can accept their career in life working in a grocery store. and if they did have a family to feed, why don't they try to, i don't know get a real job? "The Grocery Business doesn't pay like Hollywood Movies" no it doesn't, but the last time i checked bagging groceries wasn't an art form.

Posted by: heather at December 12, 2003 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

My car was vandalised while I was working as a temp at the Vons supermarket located in Woodland Hills, California. (Valley Circle/Mulholland) My car was parked hidden away from the market front, but on the same parking lot while I was at work. My damages estimated out to about $3,000. I had called the police to the scene and informed my manager right away after discovering it when I broke for lunch. The loss prevention department at Vons is ONLY paying my deductible on my insurance. After discussing this with others, I discovered that this is happening a lot, but what disturbed me even more was that when this happend to a customer and also to an employee at a nearby Ralph's, those cases the damages were all at least offered to be paid in full and no concerns about going through insurance came up. Dan Flores who is in charge of these cases for my store claims that the policies with Vons is not the same with the other supermarkets involved in the strike. How can that be, isn't it the same union that is responsible and has these people out on the picket line?? And there is not even a rule for the picketers to stay within a certain vicinity, meaning a employee on strike can come clock in and leave for the day and still get paid! Obviously an employee was wandering around out of supervised view and damaged my car severely. This is so unfair and getting way out of hand!

Posted by: Rosalyn at December 12, 2003 02:08 PM | PERMALINK

The replacement workers are being paid $12/hr at Vons and $18/hr at Ralphs. Yes, this can be a mindless job, but there is a lot to remember and understand and do, in the transactions, what keys to punch, how to do adjustments, etc.

The health plan was too much and now they do not want to give it up. Well, times change and that is why we have contracts. To pay $40 a week when you get paid $18 hour without a college degree would not bother me at all! Or any co-pays.

Many young people would be best not to make a career out of a supermarket job, but when you are
over 45 and starting over, with no college, it is a pretty good deal to us. I am 52 and have a side business so working as a replacement worker at the higher wage is a good deal for me. I missed my chance at college, so this is where I should be.

Posted by: Pat at December 28, 2003 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

I also screwed up when i was young, the same as pat.
And now I have to pay the consequences, I wish I had listened to my father and went to college to get a real career, instead i got a job.
Now my friends that did get their degrees have left me in the dust.
Is society responsible for my mistakes?
Luckly I dont have kids because I was always very carefull, but if I had would society be responsible?
I make much less than 17 per hour, but would never dream of harassing people like these union workers are doing, I would quit and find another job
and I have plenty of times.
My boss is free to offer me less money if he wants to, and I am free to refuse.
If a person works only 20 or 30 hours a week, can they complain that theyre not making it (part time job) ???

Posted by: richard at December 31, 2003 09:03 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with the anti unionist views/opinions. The union is being greedy at their current position! Everyone pays for benefits, and the supermarkets finally opened their eyes. Think of it this way union workers, what do you do? Does it require an education besides counting money? or getting a price check? If you're unhappy with your job, then get some education and find a new one! It's really senseless with all the violence going on with striking union workers. I hate to say it, but the supermarkets are still making money and the union is being a$$ed out of making some money that they could of made if they weren't bickering over a lil medical care. Union workers get back to work...we have enough homeless people in this world....

Posted by: Mike at January 5, 2004 06:33 PM | PERMALINK

I see a few posts from replacement workers on this site, I am currently working for Vons, till the strike is over.
I am working part time after school, its not easy work, but I am getting paid more than what this job is worth, I am making eighteen dollars per hour to mop the floors and stock shelves.
I cant believe people actually thought that they could make a career out of what I am doing, and even raise a family.
No real skills equals no real paycheck.
Most of the people working here are students, the campus is only half mile away, and there is such a big difference between us and the picketers.
We are using this job as a springboard for our future, paying for our books, tuition, housing etc..
And the people outside have made paper or plastic a career and are not interested in going farther in life.
Its their right as Americans to strike and try to get what they can, but they have been resorting to cutting tires on some of our cars, and harassing customers trying to buy food, somebody even destroyed the rim on my bicycle with a brick.
It had gotten so bad, that the store had to install cameras in the parking lot to watch them.
The union is not saying hire our workers because we are faster, better skilled, more efficient.
They are saying if you dont hire us and pay us what we want, we will not allow anyone else to work for you, and we will intimidate your customers so they go somewhere else.
Imagine if a car wash said, we are not the best in town and we cost more, but give us your bissiness or we will smash your windows when your not looking.
Unions have done a lot of good over the years, especially when you think about the coal miners and how they were virtually slaves to the company, and even the celebrated Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford treated their workers like dirt, and required them to work twelve hour work days for pennys, so they could sell their steel or model T, cheaper then the competion.
And on the other hand during world war 2, when my grandfather was fighting in europe to defeat the Nazi regime, losing his arm and part of his jaw to a grenade, the plant at willow run, which built the B24 Liberator was on strike, it seems Pearl Harbor wasnt that important, if they could get more pay.
And just 10 months after the world trade center was destroyed, the ILWU, longshoremen, called a strike that shut down all the shipping ports, from San Diego, to Seattle.
I guess Osama isnt that bad, lets shut down the US economy, then the union will get what it wants.
Pay us or else.

Posted by: Sean.k at January 13, 2004 01:59 AM | PERMALINK

If I were a janitor, gas station attendent or any other type of unskilled worker, than I wouldnt be starting a family, its just not smart.
I saw an excellent post saying that you shouldnt try to be writing checks you cant cash.
If you have kids reallying on you, than you should have the drive to improve your career situation, and not be content mopping floors and bagging grocerys.
I know a lot of people use this job as a start in life, and are trying to move forward, this strike is not for those with drive.
This strike is for the lazy ones who have grown accustomed to the no brainer work and decent pay.
Low skilled workers are a dime a dozen, go into any of the picketed stores, you all have been replaced already.
I was pretty much nuetral about this strike, till I personally witnessed people being abused by the union picketers.
If you people want to lose sympathy and support then by all means continue verbally assaulting and intimidating people that need to eat.
Stay the course and see what you can achieve in another 3 months.

Posted by: lucas at January 19, 2004 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

lucas, you're a moron. you can't even spell a lot of the words you're trying to use let alone comment on a situation that you're ill-informed about. picketers in generally don't behave in the manner you've described unless they've been provoked; which is probably why you're pissed. you opened your mouth to one and got your lips ripped off.

Posted by: glenn at January 22, 2004 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

My girlfriend had her door keyed by picketers last month, seems two picketers had mistaken her car for a replacement worker, but fortunately a customer saw the vandals and they were arrested.
I agree with glen that most picketers are not causing problems, but there are those that are cursing customers without provocation and vandalizing cars.
I am trying to be forgiving, but the more this happens, the less support the picketers will receive.

Posted by: Martin v. at January 29, 2004 06:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hey union members.
who cares already, get back to work, or stop crying.
If you wont scan the toilet paper, then somebody else will.

Posted by: brett at February 4, 2004 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

Hey brett you must not know that most of the people out cant go back to work if you work for Ralphs or for Albertsons then your locked out and dont have the choice to go back to work all though even if many of them had the choice they wouldent because they know why they are out. My dad has worked for the company now for almost 29 years and he knows he messed up he told me and my brothers not to get into the buisness because it isent a wise decision. Most of the picketers wont approach you unless you give them a reason to many people are supporting the strike and those you who arent and say "dont write chechs you cant cash" accidents happen girls get pregnant you cant expect protection to work everytime and for those out on the picket line keep it up eventually you will win.. Matt

Posted by: Matt at February 5, 2004 09:12 AM | PERMALINK

Oh and another thing since the strike started since you say the people can be replaced so easily maybe you should try to get a list of how much stuff has been stolen people can walk out with shopping carts of food and the Scabs inside wouldent have any clue, they are useless maybe the store managers should look at who they have hired

Posted by: Matt at February 5, 2004 09:15 AM | PERMALINK

Cmon guys, admit it. It's over. You took your shot at your employers during a down economy and you missed. I've seen both sides of the issue, (I worked as a bagger when i was in college and I owned Alberston's stock as recently as last October), and it is fairly obvious by now that the companies have won. Convincingly. Hell, i wish I'd gone with my gut and held onto the stock (I sold at 20$, it's now up to 30$). Everyone is replaceable, even me at my white collar job, but those without technical skills are much more easily replaced, especially in a high-tech economy. What shocks me about this strike is that i have some friends that have spent their entire savings in the past three months trying to survive this strike. Are these jobs so fantastic and irreplaceable to the workers themselves? Why not find similar type-work and avoid putting yourselves in financial crisis? The only reason I can see why the strike has gone on as long as it has is that these workers know they had a really good thing going (relatively high pay versus low entry to workforce requirements) and are absolutely pissed to see themselves being called out on it. The shareholder in me says that a grocery bagger should not be able to support a family in a modern society. And i'll be damned if my company should be forced to foot the vast majority of a $50,000 medical bill for the wife of a checkout clerk. There is no way a checkout clerk, no matter how cheerfully they say "paper or plastic" or meticulously they scan each and every dog food can, will ever make up such a one time cost to that store. The fact is that these workers are simply not as valued by their employers as the union has led them to be.

Posted by: Eric at February 5, 2004 09:51 AM | PERMALINK

Ok you have a point eric but what about people who already have nearly 30 years and are about to retire? you think a 50 some odd year old person should just go start a new career somewhere else? frankly i feel that these jobs are very important to alot of people out there and that they are not just going to step aside and let all the years they put in go to waste when the strike is over regarless wether we win or not they will all go back all though there will be a significant number of lay offs, so i say if youve been doing it for more then 10 years and your over 40 its very unlikly that you will be able to get a new job somewhere expecially not at the same pay you get if your a full time grocery clerk so i think the people should stick it out the contract will eventually be settled and wether they get everything they want or not they will all be going back to work

Posted by: Matt at February 5, 2004 01:39 PM | PERMALINK

I feel bad for many picketers, and many i dont feel sorry for at all.
This was handled very poorly by the unions and strikers from the begining.
I have witnessed a lot of terrible behavior by these strikers, I have seen people I know and would not associate with these types of behavior, losing their sense of decency.
Instead of persuasional tactics, I have witnessed combative attitudes, dont cross our lines or else.
And the ones that are silent and respectfull, are guilty by association.
I have seen elderly people, and women with kids assaulted, while other picketers stay silent, and not trying to restrain the idiots.
Once you go down that path you lose the moral high ground and puplic support.
The plan should have been "please support us, if you cant on this visit,maybe the next time you need food".

Posted by: richard at February 7, 2004 08:39 PM | PERMALINK

Let me just say, that many people do not have the option of staying in school and going to college. Some of you seem to be under the mistaken impression that every family lives in relative comfort, and has the money to send their children to college. Newsflash, many don't. There are many people out there working crap jobs not because they don't want to go to school, but because they can't afford to. There are many families where the children need to work, otherwise the family won't survive.

And then, what do you do about school quality? Not everyone grows up in the suburbs, with the nice public and private education available there. Many people grow up in urban, inner city areas and are left without the advantages of having well off parents who know the value of a college education. Many chidren from inner city schools are ignorant about even the basic requirements to go to college (SAT's, application process, etc), not because they are stupid, but because they grew up in an environment that didn't emphasize education, but rather plain and simple survival. And even supposing they got an opportunity to go to school, how would they afford it? Yes, there are loans and scholarships available, but not for everyone, and often they are not enough. Community college is certainly an option, but even their prices per unit are going up (up to 20+ dollars a unit soon, I believe), and very often people from the lower class are not able to pay even the 10 dollar increases and still survive.

And for people who have their jobs eliminated, or wages cut to the point they can't live off of them anymore? Well, it's all very well and good and easy to say they should just go back to school and get retrained, but it's another thing entirely to implement it. Again, not everyone has the resources necessary to do that. School is not free, and the bills don't stop coming just because you're getting retrained.

But heck, for the sake of discussion, let's suppose that everyone whose wages are cut to the point where they can only barely survive (if they can at all) or those who are fired are able to go back to school somehow to get retrained for the next tier of jobs. What happens then? You have a large new labor source in that previous "skilled" labor field. Exactly what do you think that would do? Why, it would drive the wages (or perhaps it would be salaries at that point) down as competition for those jobs increases. That's not even counting companies who decide to outsource to foreign countries with a lower cost of living to save even more money.

The point being, that the grocery workers' problems today, could very well be the ones you are facing tomorrow. Don't shut your eyes to it, don't complain about labor unions screwing everyone, they aren't! There are problems with unions, yes, but there is also a problem with the companies themselves. Nobody in the company should be making 1 million plus dollars, and giving themselves more raises and benefits if their companies are struggling; they need to be accountable as well.

Posted by: Mike at February 16, 2004 09:22 PM | PERMALINK

The point being, that the grocery workers' problems today, could very well be the ones you are facing tomorrow, nice post Mike~

Posted by: Mark at February 20, 2004 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

What the hell?
This contract is bullshit!
I cant believe I spent almost 5 months of my life busting my ass for this crap.
Our union said hold the line, and at my store we did.
We only had one guy who got another job, everyone else stood firm.
And what for?
To get stabbed in the back like this?
By our own union?
The paper that its written on is worth more than the least I could use the paper to wipe my ass.
We cant accept this, not after coming this far.

Posted by: patrick k. at February 28, 2004 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

Greg Conger sold us out, if he was going to pander to the corporate scum, why the hell didnt he do it before we lost 20 goddamn paychecks!
Im proud to be in the local 324, but this losers got to go.
He's probably on the take, the greedy scum sucking suits, probably have him in their pockets.
And to you all so called union members, if you didnt have the stomach to fight, then you should have quit long time ago and went to work for wallmart, instead of voting for this horse shit.
Then maybe us"real union members" would have won this fight, thanks for nothing.

Posted by: greg at February 29, 2004 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

We tried our best, but frankly I couldnt have gone much longer.
As a single mother, having a roof over my daughters head and food for her is my number one job as a parent, we were told the strike would last no longer then three weeks, not this long certainly.
Its going to take years to pay what I have put on my credit cards these last few months.
I think the union got us the best deal possible under the circumstances, its better than the first proposal at least.
You dont win every fight, but we did stand up to them and I am proud for having done it, although I am not sure I would do it again.

Posted by: Kasey at March 1, 2004 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

i was just looking over this site to try to find out what it was the meatcutters deal ended up being in so. cal.. im disgusted by some of the notes here telling people to get a real job. please people dont be idiots.yes you can train another fool to say paper or plastic or how to cut a side a beef, but that doesnt mean this crap isnt a real job, being a meatcutter feeding you ungreatful asses durring christmas time is a tougher month a work than you "educated" jerks do in a year. the stores are still makin money fools-your ass is still eating every day right?! so i should get paid too!! im not asking for three figures and a company car- i want a real living wage. i now make enough to own a decent home raise a family and go see a flipin movie now and then. is that o.k.? meatcutting is a trade and i thought i was doing the right thing going into this job, seeing that it was possible to work my ass off and make enough to support a family,and then i come here and i see people writing that i dont deserve it. ive been to school and ive sat in an office and i can assure you your corporate job is just as meaningless as mine. i just hope when our cantract comes up, the response from the public isnt as warped as your so.californian sun-fried brains. I just cant belive i feed your dumb asses. Oh yeah if anyone knows what the contract for my brethren meatcutter was please respond.

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