Published on: January 27, 2021
Yesterday we had a piece about how Tops Friendly Markets has a new TagBack program it is instituting, working with a company called Bedford to help shoppers recycle small produce tags or twist ties.
One MNB reader responded:
I’m sorry to say, but recycling is a beautiful myth. This is a feel good program but unless retailers and manufacturers start working together to ‘pre cycle’ and keep items from getting produced, it’s really just garbage. It’s expensive to recycle, there aren’t good, if any, secondary markets for recycled items and the petroleum industry has spent billions of dollars to greenwash their industry. And honestly, tags and ties are the tiniest drop in the bucket.
Ultimately, manufacturers should be responsible for the life cycle of their packaging. I guarantee they would get very innovative in a hurry if that were the case.
Now cork IS recyclable and there are programs for that. Our store take back corks for recycling. This should be mandatory. But it’s not.
Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but our company works every day to reduce our reliance on plastic and it’s pretty tiring to have to be the innovator when we have a 4-store chain. Why aren’t ALL grocery stores banding together to do this? Most of our time is spent untangling the intricate greenwashing around every single plastic item INCLUDING the so-called biodegradable or ‘green’ plastics. It’s such a sham.
From another reader:
At Wegmans, most stores are set up with the SCAN app which allows customers to scan UPC codes while they shop and scan a barcode at self checkout to pay in one step. In produce, customers can weigh their items and scan the UPC on the produce scale and never use a bag, twist tie or label in the first place and not waste the time and energy to recycle these items. The more we can reduce our consumption in the first place or reuse items ourselves, the better it is for the environment.
MNB yesterday took note of an Eater Seattle report that the Seattle City Council has unanimously passed a new ordinance that mandates a $4-per-hour raise for "grocery workers in large stores," with the expectation that Mayor Jenny Durkan will sign it into law shortly.
I am troubled by this legislative trend, which seems to be getting traction in certain markets. It just strikes me as fundamentally unfair to impose a mandate like this on a subset of a specific segment. I have no problem with hazard pay, and think that retailers that gave raises and then took them away made a mistake - the optics around who was essential and to what degree were just awful. But this ought to be the company's decision - pay levels will determine which companies are preferred and which ones are not. (This is different that a mandated minimum wage, which applies to everyone.)
This is just bad public policy.
We also referenced a piece in Fast Company by Scott Galloway about where there is a real need for government regulation. He wrote, in part:
"… the biggest economic boost that the Biden-Harris administration can deliver won’t be stimulus or bailouts, it will be committing funding and political support for serious antitrust enforcement."
This all prompted one MNB reader to write:
Your article on government dictated hazard pay and on anti-trust are twin sons/daughters of a different mother/father.
At the moment those companies are providing necessary services, employment growth or at least stability and continue to invest in a very sketchy economy.
I covered Amazon in an earlier memo (+500,000 jobs, already at $15 hour and benefits, largest corporate commitment to alternative fuels). Even Facebook continues to keep hundreds of chefs and other workers who once fed their in-office armies ON THE PAYROLL while those armies stay at home. Government, on the other hand, is directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of unemployed, tens of thousands of lost businesses and a great deal of short and long term damage to early education.
And again, I do not believe that any of these companies are altruistic, and I downright abhor some of their actions.
Government often deflects attention toward big business as evil. (think phone companies, oil companies, other big retailers, etc.) Antitrust claims it's aim and legal authority come from a consumer benefit: price, options or both. How will moves against Apple, Amazon, Google or Microsoft achieve that?
Government actions re: hazard pay, are simply price and wage controls (think 1974) and how is the government better at this than the free market? Amazon pays $15/hour now. Many of the big retailers have adopted that rate, or close because it made sense for them to do it. Government actions in these areas simply add red tape and costs, and while Amazon may be able to afford it, the local bar, grocer, garage, for fish market simply cannot.
Also about the hazard pay issue, an MNB reader wrote:
Initially, when supermarkets were just about the only retail establishment still operating when the pandemic first took hold, and these businesses on the whole were not prepared or able to quickly establish health and safety protocols, they were in reality hazardous places to work. And if memory serves correct, most supermarkets initiated hazard pay or increases in wages across the board.
Remaining open in a pandemic basically forced supermarkets to adapt and create systems, barriers, protocols that supported the health and safety of their Team Members and their communities at large. And today they are probably some of the safest environments in which to work. Masks are generally mandated, sanitation practices are pure and consistent, wipes and sanitizer sprays, lotions, gels are plentiful, gloves are worn, people are kept at a distance and maximum occupancy rates are enforced. Break rooms are shuttered, common eating areas gone, and customer flow is in/out efficiently.
As other retail businesses reopened, either all businesses are hazardous or really, none are more hazardous than any other. As supermarkets on the whole have taken these essential measures in order to create a healthy and safe environment then why should they be on the hook for hazard pay in addition to all of the infrastructure and investment already made on behalf of the Team? I agree, poor legislation, imbalanced, and unwarranted. That's my two cents.
And from another reader:
Wouldn’t a better system be that there be no minimum wage? If unskilled labor is free to go anywhere it would force employers to compete for labor. Costco has already proven that they can attract better workers by not following any minimum wage rules and actually pay at higher wages. Conversely if a $15 minimum wage is good, wouldn’t $20 be better, then why not $50 be the ultimate? I hope you get my point.
Costco is an example of free market capitalism at its finest and proof we do not need a minimum wage. In fact the minimum wage prevents unskilled workers from getting jobs to gain the skill necessary to move up and earn more based on their new skill set. What further depresses the labor market is the abject failure of our public schools. We spend more today on public education and the data confirms it’s an absolute failure. Education is another area where the principals of free market capitalism by means of a voucher system would lead to much better results.
I understand your points, which isn't the same as getting either of them, I'm afraid.
Eliminating the minimum wage would just empower some people and companies to exploit poor people with few options and no hope of being treated equitably. I'm happy to engage in a reasonable conversation about how to structure a nuanced minimum wage law, but eliminating it completely strikes me as abdicating one of the responsibilities that a government ought to have.
Free markets work a lot better for the people at the top than the people at the bottom, it seems to me. To think otherwise is, to coin a phrase, to accept a beautiful myth.