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Market Basket fallout: Most innocent bystanders

August 14. 2014 10:16PM

Grocery stores have been among the few places where the mentally handicapped are employed in the community. One can’t have shopped at Market Basket over the years without noticing that the chain went out of its way to find jobs for many such people.

Sure, the person bagging your groceries might have done so a little more slowly than someone else could have. Perhaps there were times when you did some of the bagging yourself to move the process along a bit. Arguably, such small inefficiencies are the sort of thing Market Basket accepted in its approach to business, which was perhaps not quite as interested in squeezing every last dollar out of gross sales as are other businesses.

It is hard to see people who aren’t here. One of the invisible consequences of the advent of amniocentesis and genetic testing is that we are much less likely to encounter the mentally handicapped in our daily lives than people were as recently as one or two generations ago. Studies suggest that two-thirds or more of positive tests for Down Syndrome result in terminated pregnancies. After a couple of decades of that, there are far fewer mentally handicapped people around who are capable of doing some productive work as part of living full lives.

In recent days, some on the political left have celebrated the fact that, due to a change in state law, part-time workers like many of the thousands losing jobs at Market Basket are eligible for unemployment benefits.

Most, if not all, of Market Basket’s mentally handicapped employees probably fall into this category. We ask our friends on the left, what is better for these individuals: being eligible for unemployment benefits as part-time workers, or having their jobs back?

One imagines that hiring the handicapped may not be the top priority as Market Basket’s competitors cherry-pick laid off workers. We fear that whenever and however the Market Basket saga is resolved, many in this segment of the newly unemployed workforce may never find meaningful, productive work in the community again.

They are truly some of the most innocent victims of this train wreck.

Guest editorial by Fergus Cullen.

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