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• National Public Radio’s Marketplace had a couple of interviews recently about retail employment that made some interesting points.

In one, Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, said, “I think people have misconceptions about who retail workers are. I can't tell you how many elected officials think that retail workers are just people looking for extra pocket money or that they're all young people or they're students. Most retail workers are there because they need to support their families. We have to understand that retail workers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Mark Cohen, the director of Retail Studies at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business, noted that at a time when stores are being closed and many traditional shopping malls are endangered, the jobs that are lost often don’t become a major issue.

“The reason, in my opinion, it has not yet become one is because what's going on in retail is local,” Cohen says. “It's shopping centers here and there and everywhere laying off dozens of people at a time, not thousands.”

The irony, he says, is that “the number of retail workers far exceeds the number of coal miners or recent manufacturing employees” - employment segments that get a lot more political attention and media headlines.
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