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December 12, 2012

Holiday Blues and Union Dues


As some of you know, I tend to obsess about things I see, hear, experience, read, screw up, celebrate. And I'm in that mode this morning, after returning from a 5 a.m. sprint through the Meijer's store to buy a few basics. I'm upset about how truly UNcivil, selfish, meanspirited we seem to be these days.

And about the mess, the lack of civility, the trashing of tents and tempers, the behavior in Lansing yesterday, which was replayed on BBC World Service Radio to 280 million worldwide listeners all last night. The British, of course, love retelling with glee, bad news from The Colonies.

The Meijer worker bees were busy, as usual, this early morning. With stacks of grape crates, tomatoes, lettuce in the produce section. Working hard. But not a smile to be found. And a strange absense of the natural energy you notice in people when they are doing a job they enjoy and/or take satisfaction in.

About eight months ago, when I was literally without both a job and almost enough to eat, I applied for a job to work in this SAME Meijer store produce section.

I was interviewed by the Produce Team Leader, and learned they had 23 people working JUST in the produce section; but were down to only about 13 because of turnover. She seemed excited at the prospect of hiring me, but I became less so as the interview continued.

"Yes," she said. 'We start you out at $7.53 an hour. (Minimum wage). You're eligible for a 10 cent increase in 3 months. You'll have to buy your own standard kakki colored slacks and button down shirts. I can guarantee you 24 hours a week; but can probably give you more ...

"And, oh," she added. "We take out $25 a month (from your pay) for union dues."

I just held my pasty smile tight as glass, and stared at her. $25 FOR UNION DUES?, I thought to myself. And 24 hours at minimum wage, pay for uniforms, and might get a 10 cent raise in 3 months?

I drove home, called and cancelled the scheduled final followup interview with the store manager.

Life has looked up for me, since, and my wants and needs are small.

I have another part-time job now.

I get a little Social Security.

I've been buying small gifts for my grandkids again. I've learned that's more fun than driving a new car, or taking a First Class seat to Hong Kong.

As for the unions, and what happened in Lansing yesterday.... I'm going to try hard to keep my attitude on gratitude this Christmas Season.

But, I still wonder, what those Meijer Associates on Columbia Avenue are getting for their monthly union dues.

It's gotta be more than what's in their paycheck.

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