, , , , , , ,

Source: Article Profits Before People by Stephanie Rogers, earthfirst.com

When my two sons and I arrived in Los  Angeles in October 2003, the State of California was bankrupt. Grocery workers at three major supermarket chains were on strike or locked out, clamoring for health care and an end to corporate greed. A week later, the mechanics of the Los Angeles Metro bus service also went on strike, leaving us without public transport. Then, before the month ended, my sister warned us of the firestorm raging across the San Bernardino
Valley not far from where we lived at the time. We had arrived in Los Angeles at a bad time.

My plans for starting up an import-export business with Brazil did not materialize. So when an opportunity arose to work in a retail store in West Hollywood, I took it. A fascinating workplace. I overheard conversations in diverse languages, unknown to my ears. American youth boasted tattoos of artistic skill and beauty. Some colored their hair purple and green. Gay men crossed paths with Jewish women and girls covered in cloth from neck to wrists to ankles.

As a former international trade professional, I was impressed by the corporation’s efficient and steady flow of goods from US and overseas suppliers to their stores throughout the USA. The retail store was an end-line in the export-import process: putting goods in the hands of the consumer.

But all was not well at the store-front. Time was crucial in the execution of our duties. Even the cash registers rated the speed at which we checked out each customer. But when there are only a few team-members on a shift, how do you help customers to find what they seek, keep the floor tidy, stock shelves, attend to telephone enquiries, and assist at the cash registers during peek hours? As workers, we were mere tools for getting the job done with maximum profit for the corporation. Our annual wage increases for job performance were measured out in quarters (25 cents). More work for less.

To compete with the slave-labor prices offered by America’s leading multi-national retailer and private employer, other retailers and supermarkets have to find ways to cut costs in order to compete and still maintain their profit margins. Like the renegade leader, they must also import goods produced at lower costs overseas and chop theirUS labor costs. The ripple effect.

To stuff us with their products, our corporations brainwash us with slogans of empty promises. Save money, live better. Expect more, pay less. They have made us believe that we can have whatever we want at little cost. We have yet to fully realize the real cost of our indulgences.

If workers want to live better, we have to stop expecting more for less and focus on what really matters.