Supermarkets as a national phenomenon didn’t really take off until after the end of World War II in 1946. Before then Americans bought their groceries, meat and other household consumer products in mainly family owned and operated stores.
East of the Mississippi, especially, the large population concentrations and extensive road networks required to supply and for easy customer access did not exist.
Before the war there were some supermarkets in large metropolitan areas, most famously the A & P chain. There were enough people who could walk on city streets to the markets and also roads and paved streets to keep big stores supplied by increasing numbers of motorized vehicles.
Few employees of what were called “Mom and Pop” shops in those days made a living, usually only Mom and Pop themselves. As today, controlling labor costs were crucial to operating at a profit. Without strong unions, non-owner employees worked “at will,” that is, at the whim and will of employers.
In those days images of “Bob” and “Suzy” hurrying to their family’s grocery store or butcher shop after class in high school to haul sides of beef or put cans on the shelves and lift the huge tubs of butter into the freezer compartment behind the counter were quite accurate. Full-time work outside the family was rare. Where it existed, pay was pitifully low, with no benefits of any kind, and worker exploitation was rampant. No vacation, no retirement, no medical coverage, no job security — no nothing. And nothing to do about it. If an employee got sick and didn’t work, he or she didn’t get paid. If workers didn’t like it, they could seek employment elsewhere — that is, until the Retail Clerks and the Butchers started to organize and flex their united muscles.
Sad to say, none of this history is taught in American schools any more as it once was. Rather, today we have the intense, aggressive move to bring back the bad old days when the employers did whatever they wanted with their people to maximize profits. Your local union, in conjunction with the UFCW International Union, remain towers of strength in defense of what the union has achieved over eight decades.
Through them, we unite to improve the lives of our fellow union members and all who work for wages.
(909) 877-5000 ext 150