Workers at Hermans sporting goods stores have been on strike for over a month. The workers are demanding an increase in pay, (which currently averages four dollars per hour) and that managment provide them with the same healthcare and educational benefits offered at their other stores. Because of the small number of employees involved, the store at Briarwood Mali has used the threat of hiring replacements to get most of their employees to go back to work after having nitially voted to strike. However in Herman's other Michigan outlets, most of the workers are still striking. This strike is particularly important because jobs in retail stores such as Hermans are increasingly becoming the only form of ment available to people, regardless of their age. Approximately 90% of the new jobs that have been created in the 1980's have been in either retail trade or n services. The average yearly income for fulltime workers in retail trade is approximately $9,000, about 20% below the poverty line for a family of four. For service sector employees it is approximately $13,000, or slightly above the poverty line. Generally these jobs offer little or no healthcare or pension benefits. Also, the low pay of these jobs is a major factor in sustaining racial and sexual income inequalities. Women are forced into these low wage sectors n grossly disproportionate numbers, in spite of the limited gains resulting from affirmative action measures in recent years. Currently very few workers in retail trades or services are unionized. Until and unless this situation is changed, these jobs will continue to pay poverty level wages to an ever larger segment of the workforce. However, unionization n these sectors can be an extremely difficult process. Because current pay and benefit levéis are so low, workers very rarely gain much attachment to their jobs, and often seek out employment elsewhere rather than attempt to mprove their current situation. In addition, most retail and service sector outlets are fairly small, making the threat to hire replacements for striking workers far more plausible than in a large factory. All of these factors make organizing a workplace even more difficult than t normally would be. It would seem to be a relatively small sacrifice to honor a picket line at Hermans to support the right of its employees to unionize and to a decent wage. More importantly, this should be seen as a step in the direction of securing decent wages and benefits for all retail and service workers, since future organizing efforts will undoubtedly be influenced by the outcome of this strike.
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