Grocery store workers go on the dole as wages fall
A new report by the University of California, Berkeley Food Labor Research Center’s Saru Jayaraman and UC Davis professor Chris Benner ties the state’s growing number of grocery industry workers receiving public assistance to declining wages within the industry.
The report involved interviews with 925 people employed by supermarket chains, ethnic markets and big box operators such as Walmart and Target. It found that roughly one in three people working in the industry is receiving some type of assistance and that one in five rations their food.
The research, which was commissioned by the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council, found the median wage at unionized stores fell from $19.38 in 2000 to $15.17 an hour in 2012. The median wage for non-union workers was below $10. Company profits grew an average of two percent a year during the same period.
"The grocery industry was once seen as a reliable source for middle-class jobs in this state — workers could buy a house, put their kids through college, retire with a comfortable income," said Jim Araby, executive director for the UFCW’s Western States Council, in a statement. "That these things are no longer possible, and low-wage workers are being squeezed to the point of seeking out public assistance even as their employers grow richer, points to a broader problem in our state."
The report calls for support for unions and living wage public policies as a two-pronged approach to reversing the current situation.
- Shelved: How Wages and Working Conditions for California’s Food Retail Workers Have Declined as the Industry has Thrived – United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Council
- Shelved: Report on CA’s Food Retail Workers – United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Council
- UFCW States Council Releases Largest-Ever Study of California’s Grocery Industry Workers – United Food & Commercial Workers Western States Council
- Supermarket wages have declined nearly 25 percent since 1999, study says – Los Angeles Times (tiered sub.)
- Study: Grocery workers struggle to pay for food – The Associated Press/SFGate
- Grocery workers in California see wages shrink – San Francisco Chronicle
What economic and competitive pressures are causing grocery worker wages to fall? Do you agree with the report authors that more support is needed for unions and living wage public policies to correct the situation?