Haggen Slashes Hours Because It Can

Bosses! Amirite? (Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Bosses! Amirite? (Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Free marketeers often dismiss stagnant wages and growing income inequality, because markets! Workers are paid what the market determines their labor to be worth, conservatives sneer, no more, no less. Period.

Of course it would be ridiculous to counter that markets don’t play a major role in setting wages. But it would be equally ridiculous to ignore the role played by the staggering imbalance of power between employers and employees:

Geiger, the union spokesman, said Haggen originally added worker hours after taking over the former Albertsons and Safeway stores. But he said that in the past few weeks, some people who had worked 40 hours a week “for years” were ending up with less than 20 assigned hours.

Likewise, several staffers who remain officially employed haven’t been assigned any weekly hours in the past few weeks.

Think about that. If you just announced to your boss, “I’m not coming in for the next couple weeks,” or “I think I’m only going to work half-days through end of the summer or whenever I feel like it,” you’d probably be fired. But it’s perfectly acceptable for your boss to do the equivalent to you while expecting you to remain on call to accommodate his scheduling needs, or else, you know, you’re fired.

In fact, it’s not just acceptable, it’s the norm. Even for unionized employees.

Conservatives argue that wage floors, overtime standards, labor unions—these all hurt the economy by “distorting the market.” But there is no pure market for labor, and never has been, because employers enjoy a natural power advantage that exists external to the value of labor.

That’s why they get to tell you what to do, and not the other way around. They’re in charge. If you don’t like it you’re free to quit, but you’ll starve long before your employer does. That’s the nature of wage labor.

If it wasn’t, shit like this would never fly.



David "Goldy" Goldstein has written about politics for The Stranger, The Nation and the Huffington Post. He hosted “The David Goldstein Show” on Seattle’s news/talk 710-KIRO from 2006 through 2008, and has been pissing off readers at his blog HorsesAss.org for more than a decade.