SIT DOWN NOW! TIME TO END THE TORTURE!

By: Rick Sprout                                                                                                                                                          Over the past several months I have been involved in conducting an admittedly “unscientific” study of cashiers in Broome County.  We met women and men, young and old, black and white. Their commonality? They were in pain!

We discovered that cashiers are routinely subjected to what has been described as torture by various international tribunals for well over 60 years.  Imagine being placed in a small cubicle and told to stand there until relieved – for  4, 6 or even 8 hours.

The effects of standing for such a long time begin with blood pooling in your feet.  The hard floor begins to radiate up your legs and lower back.  After a period you begin to shift your body to relieve the pressure. “There are days when I get home and it takes a half hour before I can get out of my car and go inside.”

On a “slow” night at Wegmans, for example, you will see the cashiers standing in their aisles shifting or attempting to relieve their aching feet, legs, backs. One cashier told us, “I’ve gone to H/R (Human Resources) and when I came in, he didn’t even take his feet off the desk and proceeded to tell me it wasn’t dignified to be sitting down for customers.”

We also met cashiers and “behind the counter” people at a physical therapy center, where they were attempting to find relief from the constant pain resulting from years of being forced to stand without either chairs or approved cushioning mats. “Too expensive to maintain,” the bosses told one worker at Price Chopper in Endicott.

The people we talked to spent their time off work trying to find relief at home by putting their feet up, using foot baths, analgesics or combinations of these.  Yeah, I try, but with kids and all, there’s cooking, homework…I’m 28 years old and walking like an old lady.”

At Wegmans, one worker said, if you bring a note from your doctor you can use a chair.  “I’ve never seen one, but that would be like wearing a dunce cap at school – who wants to be ‘special,’” he gestured with his hands.

Convenience store workers are told that their “break” is when no one is in the store.  “We use that time to restock and clean – that’s our break.”  Because, “this is a buyer’s market”, as one convenience store worker put it. “I was so desperate for a job, I didn’t realize that when I was hired, I signed a form saying I gave up my right for a break.”

“It’s a class thing. They tell us that it’s because customers don’t like it if we’re sitting down. At NYSEG or even the bank, they are all sitting down – cause they make the rules and have got the power.”

It Can Be Different

Improvements for cashiers were won by workers in Europe many years ago.  At the two local Aldi stores, which are owned by a German corporation, workers are allowed to sit. The counter i ergonomically adjusted to reduce what is called “tennis elbow” or repetitive motion syndrome.  There are no complaints from the customers. However, there is still a problem; because of the design of the stool, the cashiers cannot easily stand to manage the conveyor belt.

They Blame the Workers

Wegmans encourages workers to “loosen up” before beginning their shift.  In the case of cashiers and counter people – no amount of “loosening up” will stop the blood pooling in your feet.  Nor will “new balance” sneakers or the thin doormat like pads that decorate many of the stores we visited.

Do Something About It!

The Occupational Health Clinical Center of the Southern Tier will be holding informational meetings/workshops in the Southern Tier for cashiers and all other workers that stand including:  healthcare workers, librarians, hairdressers, canvassers, wait staff, industrial laundry workers, postal workers, maintenance and housekeeping staff to list but a few of the at risk jobs.

Clinicians will be on hand at the meetings. Health and safety information will be provided, including strategies for improving existing conditions. Daycare will be provided as well as refreshments.

STANDING SYMPTOMS                                                                                                                                             Do you have?                                                                                                                                                        painful feet & legs                                                                                                                                             swelling in feet & legs                                                                                                                             bunions/corns                                                                                                                                                             heel problems, including plantar fasciitis/heel spurs                                                                                    Achilles tendonitis                                                                                                                                             varicose veins                                                                                                                                                       orthopedic changes to the feet – flat feet                                                                                                        lower back pain                                                                                                                                                     restricted blood flow                                                                                                                     immobilization/locking of joints                                                                                                                      arthritis in knees & hips                                                                                                                                      stiffness in neck & shoulders                                                                                                                              problems in pregnancy & birth defects                                                                                                                    high blood pressure                                                                                                                                                 heart & circulatory problems

If you stand (or sit) without a choice or if you know someone who does –

PLEASE CALL OR WRITE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND DETAILS.                                                           ALL NAMES WILL BE HELD IN STRICT CONFIDENCE.

607 584-9990  Ext 408  or   607-238-6892  –  sproutr@upstate.edu

 

 

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