2007_02_grocerybag.jpgThere's a somewhat surprising article in the NY Times about many supermarket baggers fighting to get paid wages. It turns out that some supermarkets don't actually pay the people bagging groceries, considering them "volunteers." That leaves the baggers to rely solely on tips. While the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union tells the Times that the problem is mainly at ethnic supermarkets, the article mentions incidents at Associated and Pioneer Supermarkets in Brooklyn. (Apparenlty Gristedes and Food Emporium had a separate settlement with the state attorney general over "paying some deliverymen $75 for a 60-hour week, or just over a dollar an hour, before tips" - the supermarkets claimed the deliverymen were "independent contractors.")

What's most upsetting about this article is how does one actually know that baggers are supposed to get tips. We're certainly going to ask now, but Gothamist had always thought that supermarket baggers were other employees.

A lawyer in attorney general's labor bureau tells the TImes, "Even if you took the position that these people just came in and were just permitted to be there, instead of being actively hired, they would still be considered employees under the minimum wage law and would not be permitted to volunteer only for tips." And there's another subcurrent in the article about why many baggers continue at bagging, versus other trades they are trained in: Illegal immigrants taking jobs.