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1 Eclectic Cyborg  Feb 12, 2015 10:01:22am
Only 17% of retail workers surveyed have a regular schedule

About 34% of relied on public assistance

Over half earn less than $10/hour

More than 70% don’t get health insurance from their jobs

The last retail job I worked I fell into ALL of these categories.

Another thing is with most retail jobs below manager you can expect to get exactly ZERO paid vacation or days off. If you’re sick? Too bad, suck it up and come in (and risk getting your coworkers sick too) or don’t get paid. I remember one day several years ago on the July 4 weekend I was scheduled to come in and I was puking my guts out the day before. I called my manager and said I didn’t think there was any way I could work the next day. He said he and the assistant were off and me being the only other keyholder (more on that in a moment), I had to find a way to make it in. So I took some medicine, made it in to work and spent most of my day in the back room just being there because it was all I could manage. Kudos to my coworkers for carrying the load that day.

And as for the keyholder thing, that’s another trick retailers pull. You see I had all the responsibilities of an assistant manager WITHOUT the full time pay and benefits of an Assistant manager. Another variation on this is to give an employee a managerial sounding title and responsibilities WITHOUT the full pay and benefits of a genuine manager.

We were primarily sales people but we weren’t commissioned. Employees griped every single year about it and every year corporate would just say “we’re looking into it” but nothing ever changed.

I worked for this particular company for 5 years. Got hired on at $8.15/hr, when I quit I was making $9.50/hr. If you do the math you’ll see I was getting an annual raise of about 0.27/hour.

The raise was determined by how well you did on your performance review, but the funny thing is I had a manager straight up tell me one day that it was pretty much impossible to score a “well above satisfactory” performance rating (which would net the highest raise) no matter how well you actually performed.

The system is badly stacked against the workers, and it sucks.

2 The Vicious Babushka  Feb 12, 2015 10:09:42am

My parents owned a small retail business (3 clothing stores) for 30 years, from the 1940’s-1970’s. They paid their employees Union equivalent wages, health care, and some of their employees worked for them the entire time they owned the business.

They were very particular about the quality of the merchandise they sold. I accompanied them on buying trips, all their merchandise was made in the USA and most of it had ILGWU tags.

They retired when they could no longer compete with the malls and big boxes.

3 SoCaroLion  Feb 12, 2015 11:33:17am

That’s a fascinating and well-researched study, with more statistics than one could shake a stick at. However, the first paragraph of the “Demographics” section immediately raised a red flag.

For instance, Ms. Luce states that the sample population consisted of 436 individuals, all in NYC, “rang(ing) in age from 15 to 62, with a median age of 24.” There is at least one problem presented by the age range of that sample - specifically between the ages of 15 and 18 - due to child labor laws in New York state:

As per the New York State Department of Labor:

The hours that minors can work depend on age, the type of work, and whether the minor is attending school. New York State has one of the strictest child labor laws in the country. The law limits the number of hours that minors under 18 may work when school is in session. To work between 10 PM and midnight on a day before a school day, 16- and 17-year olds need written permission from a parent or guardian and a certificate of satisfactory academic standing from their school. (Emphasis mine)

During weeks when school is in session, minors 14- and 15-years-old are limited to the following hours in most occupations:

More than 3 hours on any school day
More than 8 hours on a Saturday or a non-school day
More than 18 hours in any week
More than 6 days in any week

Given the median age of 24, it is apparent that a majority of the respondents were much closer to 16 and 17 years old than they were to 46 or 47.

Ms. Luce makes no secret about the intent of her study, that being to sway opinion toward unionization of the types of retail facilities from which they received responses. In fact, her plea is on page 3…of a 31 page report. However, to include respondents under the age of 18 (thus subject to limited work hours, via New York state law) skews the results and the employment statistics, most likely her actual intent.

Also, speaking of unionization, while Ms. Luce appears to include a large selection of business types, there is one important omission: employees of grocery retailers.

We focused on 10 segments within retail: Furniture, Home Furnishings, Electronics and Appliance Stores, Home Centers, Cosmetics and Beauty Supply, Clothing Stores, Shoe Stores, Book Stores, Department Stores, Office Supply and Stationary Stores.

Polling employees of grocery retailers would most definitely have skewed her study away from her intended result, primarily because it seems that a large portion of grocery store employees are already unionized.

Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” - Aaron Levenstein (apparently a now-deceased former business professor who I was completely unaware of prior to finding this quote)

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