Friday, February 11, 2011

Sticker shock

Today's Wall Street Journal details efforts in Michigan to repeal the state's Item Pricing Law, which mandates that all items must have a price sticker attached to it. Plenty of states have managed to get by without such a law, and newly elected Gov. Rick Synder has indicated his support for its elimination. So guess who is opposed to such a common sense move? If you said unions and elected Democrats, give yourself a hand:
Unions have opposed any change, fearing the loss of jobs.

"The law is good for me," said Linda Burgy, a 32-year veteran pricer at Hollywood Supermarket in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak. "It keeps me working."

Chris Michalakis, political director of United Food and Commercial Workers in Michigan, estimates that a repeal would put one to three employees per store out of work. His union represents 45,000 workers in the state. "We have more people than ever on fixed income," says Mr. Michalakis. "Knowing the amount you're spending at a grocery store matters."

Democratic lawmakers say they remain committed to item pricing, too, though their numbers in state government are smaller since the election. "When people are pinching pennies like they are now, it is a critical tool," says Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmere.
By this logic, if the law mandated that employees spend their time digging holes and filling them back the unions would also support that. And the notion that people are hindered from comparison shopping, or knowing how much the items cost that they purchase absent such a law is simply laughable.

One business owner illustrates how the law works in practice:
[Mr. Hansen of Hansen Foods] estimates he could save 80 hours a week in labor, or about $40,000 a year, if the law changed—money he'd reinvest elsewhere in the store.

Mr. Hansen says the law makes him think twice about whether it's worth it to update prices to reflect fluctuations at the warehouse. "The same item will change three times in three weeks," he said. "We look at it and make sure we want to change it. Print a new tag. Change it in the computer. All the stuff is hard enough. Now you have to go out and physically change the price on the item."
Many of our elected officials and union leaders are so divorced from economic reality it's scary.

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