Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

National's Buyout Shakes Foundation of Family Dreams

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

National's Buyout Shakes Foundation of Family Dreams

Article excerpt

IN A MODEST three-bedroom house in a suburb just outside St. Louis, a mother and father recently gave their children some startling news.

We may be moving soon, they said. We may have to give up a lot of things, they said.

Some of these sacrifices would be immediate. One of the children was planning on going on a Girl Scout-sponsored trip to Disney World. Those plans would be canceled.

Some of the sacrifices fell into the potential range. One of the children is a cheerleader. We may have to reconsider the costs of uniforms and shoes, the parents said.

The children, of course, were devastated. But so were the parents.

It is very difficult to explain to your children that you are in danger of falling out of the middle class.

The father of this family works for National Super Markets Inc.

If the Federal Trade Commission allows Schnuck Markets Inc. to buy National, the father will be out of a job. He may, however, be hired by Schnucks. Schnucks has indicated that it will hire half of the National employees.

Of course, even if he is hired, he will have lost his seniority, and there is a chance, if not a likelihood, that the new job will be part time. That would mean not only a cut in pay, it would mean the loss of benefits.

Or maybe things will work out just fine.

The bottom line is, he doesn't know. After years of hard work and loyalty, this man faces absolute uncertainty.

I visited him last week.

He asked me not to use his name or mention the location of the store where he works. He is afraid that if he were identified, the people at Schnucks might hold it against him.

When I stopped by, there were a couple of small children at the house. They were not his children. His wife baby-sits.

The man is 40ish. He has worked at National for more than 15 years. He is a department head. A large grocery store is divided into a number of departments - deli, bakery, frozen food, bulk food, produce, dairy, flower shop, video and meat. He earns more than $12 an hour, and works at least 40 hours a week.

In other words, he makes about $25,000 a year.

With his wife's day-care income, he gets by. It is a typical middle-class story, though. They live paycheck to paycheck.

He got into the grocery business by happenstance. He had a high school diploma and was working at a dead-end job when his landlord, who worked for a grocery store, asked him if he were interested in switching jobs. …

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