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Who’s bagging my groceries?

March 27th, 2004 · No Comments

I interact with a number of people on a weekly basis: the man who drops off milk at our home, the woman who delivers our mail, the people who check out and bag our groceries, the couple who run “the sticker store”, many of my neighbors, but I don’t know anything about their lives, who they are.

Wednesday’s Bainbridge Review featured a front page story on a husband and wife, Mike and Carol Gormley, whom I’ve seen at Safeway. Carol has bagged our food. Mike has pushed our cart and helped load the bags into the van. I’d heard something about their immigration troubles, but I had never heard their story:

The odds of the middle-age Safeway grocery baggers winning their fight against deportation to their native South Africa, a case to be heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 1, might appear slim.


Whether the Gormleys stay in this country will turn on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ response to Seattle attorney Carol Edward’s brief, which contends that their loss of their livelihood – economic hardship inflicted upon the Gormleys by the South African government’s Employment Equity Act because they are Caucasian – amounts to persecution under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.


Mike Gormley recalls helping build the 20-foot-high stage upon which apartheid opponent Nelson Mandela made a famous 1990 speech, marking his release from years of imprisonment.


“When apartheid was done away with, I went and had a Tupperware party,” Carol Gormley said, “and I went and I invited all my black friends and all my white friends. My (white) neighbors were disgusted with me because I had them sit in the lounge with us and have tea and cookies and cake with us.
“And of course they turned their backs on us, my white friends did.”


When Michael Gormley applied for every job he could, including dishwasher, janitor and hotdog street vendor, he was told that he wouldn’t be hired because he was white.
When he twice was surrounded and violently robbed by groups of Africans, and then threatened with a car-jacking, the Gormleys, like many white South Africans, decided they had little choice but to leave.

Reading their story, I wonder how many other stories I haven’t heard.

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