Saturday, August 13, 2011

Strawberries at Kroger’s

I recently picked up a package of strawberries at Kroeger’s and managed to do so without any drama. Later that same day, I learned that back in 1932, there was a Kroeger’s in Detroit that employed “strawberry boys” at 32 cents an hour and paid them if, and only if, any strawberries arrived and could be unloaded. They were required to be on the job at 4:30 in the morning, and were not allowed to leave the loading dock for twelve hours. No strawberries, no pay, and almost three-quarters of their pay had to be used to buy Kroeger’s groceries.

That changed dramatically one hot spring morning when a nineteen year old kid showed up and organized the strawberry boys into demanding four hours’ guaranteed pay. Kroeger’s management feared that if they didn’t get their shipment unloaded immediately, it would spoil, giving the store a major loss. That nineteen year old kid was named Jimmy Hoffa, and it was the first of his battles as a labor organizer. It was not his last.

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