The retail workers union doesn’t like Carrion’s description of retail workers

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Employer. (Tomasz Bidermann/Shutterstock.com)
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President Barack Obama's former director of urban affairs, Adolfo Carrion, angered a local union by saying this week that retail jobs "are not really career positions" that can all be suited to heads of households.

Carrion, the former Bronx borough president who is considering a return to elected office in New York City, said, "Retail jobs go to relatively young people, semi-retired people, students," and that "You don't grow up in Kingsbridge and aspire to be a retail worker at, you know, Modell's. You just don't."

The president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Stuart Appelbaum, told me he thought Carrion's comments were completely inaccurate.

Appelbaum cited a 2008 study by the labor-backed Fiscal Policy Institute that found most retail jobs in New York were held by adults whose incomes were their families' main source of money, and that that was true "across the board with all retail jobs," from working at a bodega all the way to the Saks Fifth Avenue shoe department."

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"I think he is representing misconceptions about being a retail worker in New York," Appelbaum said. (In a statement yesterday, he invited Carrion to talk to RWDSU members that work at Modell's and "listen to their stories.")

I asked whether the characterization applied to something like a low-wage gig at McDonald's, and whether it was reasonable to expect employers to make it possible for people in those jobs to support entire households.

Yes, Appelbaum said, and rejected the premise.

"I think that is calling for economic sterilization," he said.