More on the Great Paperboy/Girl Massacre
By Edward Shanahan
The day after posting a story last week about the Gazette’s intention to phase out the generations-old use of youth carriers to deliver the paper each day, I ran into Mike Noonan in downtown Florence.
“I was shocked,” he said to read on downstret.net the Gazette’s plan to get rid of the young carriers by the end of October. Although, he said he was not surprised by the move. The unhappy prospect of not being able to work with young carriers was the reason that prompted him to look for another job. He is now a uniformed security guard at the Hampshire County Courthouse.
Mike’s enthusiasm for his previous job in the Gazette’s circulation department and his joy in working with the carriers, most of whom became life-long friends of his, were muted by his dismay that these eager young people were being cut loose.
After the posting of the article last seek (see below), I received a couple of other written comments as well as some verbal opinions.
One e-mail came from Tracey Putnam, who works at the Smith College Botanic Gardens.
She went on to write in a subsequent e-mail: “I honestly believe that for a youngster, working as a newspaper carrier is one of the best ways to learn responsibility, the importance of dependability, basic math and what 'the daily grind' really means. They learn that getting up and out in the morning, no matter what the weather, is necessary to do and keep their very important jobs. I don't think there has been another time in history when these lessons were more important for our kids than now.”
From out of the blue, another writer, obviously not a 9- or10 -year old, checked in: “Found your website by googling Gazette and PCF. Strange (well, maybe not,) how the Gazette hasn't mentioned any of this. Thank you for giving it what little coverage it has gotten.
"You mention exploitation. Certainly PCF (Publishers Circulation Fulfillment, Inc.) isn't going to change that. I am now making 21 cents per paper and bundles are dropped off at my route. I am able to do my route without a car. PCF is offering 14 cents and I will have to go down to Conz Street to get my own bundles.
"PCF have combined … other routes with mine (they have made all route sizes about 250 papers, so it appears only one out of four carriers even has a chance to keep his or her job.)
"This will force carriers to drive their cars for the benefit of PCF and pay for all expenses with two thirds of what we used to make. If it was hard to keep carriers before, it will clearly get worse. It seems to me that the Gazette (and PCF) are "cutting costs" only by cutting down on what is paid to carriers. It reminds me of what Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in Nickel and Dimed :
'When someone works for less pay than she can live on ... she has made a great sacrifice for you ... The "working poor" ... are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone. (p. 221)'
"So, as you can see, I can not agree with your last line: "What difference does it make? None I guess. You’ll still get your newspaper, just from good old PCF Inc."
" But in my opinion, it does not. It is, I am afraid, an example of companies reducing costs by reducing pay of those in our society who can least afford it. I am sure PCF claims that there is a labor pool "out there" of people who are grateful for a job that pays about $13 an hour (including for the use of their car) with no provision for sick days, time off, or accidents while driving, (and walking and climbing stairs in the dark and sometimes on snow and ice.)
" It might seem profitable for a company to take advantage of such a labor pool... and offer such work. Should the Gazette? Are they knowingly involving themselves in this? Do you know people who would rent out their car for $13 an hour? Including the chauffeur? At 4 am? Unfortunately, we are not talking about driving to the prom!”
Exceedingly strong feelings have been stirred up by the prospective but certain change coming in how the daily newspaper is delivered in our hometown.
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