business news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

• The Seattle Times reports that supermarket employees of four major chains in Washington State - Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway - have overwhelmingly approved a new three—year contract.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) said in a prepared statement that "it beat back efforts to cut health benefits and holiday pay, freeze wages and eliminate a guarantee that entry-level workers make at least 10 cents above minimum wage. The deal also secures workers’ pensions and provides modest wage increases, including a ratification bonus," the union said.

Bloomberg has a story about how "food-stamp spending reached a record $78.4 billion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, due in part to a temporary boost in benefits passed as part of the 2009 economic stimulus that expires today. Lawmakers battling over U.S. farm and budget policy are looking to cut deeper by tightening eligibility rules that could drop as many as 3 million people from the program.

"With an estimated 8 percent of shoppers using food stamps, the impact will probably be felt most acutely by discount retailers such as Dollar General Corp. (DG), Family Dollar Stores Inc. (FDO) and Wal-Mart, said Bryan Gildenberg, chief knowledge officer of Kantar Retail."

• New York City lawmakers have enacted legislation raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco products - including e-cigarettes - from 18 to 21, the highest in the country.

The New York Times writes that "the proposal provoked some protest among people who pointed out that New Yorkers under 21 can drive, vote and fight in wars, and should be considered mature enough to decide whether to buy cigarettes. But the Bloomberg administration’s argument — that raising the age to buy cigarettes would discourage people from becoming addicted in the first place — won the day."

The change will take effect in about six months.

You will not find a more anti-tobacco person than I. I have long said here that I think there is a special circle of hell reserved for tobacco company executives, who lied for profit, and have been honest about at least one of the reasons for my disdain - my mother died of lung cancer after four decades of smoking. She bears responsibility for that, but there is plenty of blame to go around.

But I'm not sure I agree with the NYC age increase. I wish nobody would smoke, and I am thrilled with all the anti-smoking laws that have been enacted that make the world cleaner and safer for non-smokers. But it also is true that we can send 18 year olds off to war, and we want them to vote, and we allow them to drive. If we allow them to take on these responsibilities, we also need to empower them to make even bad choices.
KC's View: