Black and White, Black and White Photography, Joseph, Photography

Sample A Slice

 

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Today I decided to do a post about something different and it is a bittersweet subject for me. I was originally going to title the post “Faces Of The Betrayed” but I named it “Sample A Slice” referring to the sign in the first image. I wanted to give viewers a small sampling of the faces of former co-workers who will all be losing their jobs as of November 12th 2015 (my wife included).  Just for the record it really is a post about betrayal and deceit.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company is shutting down operations and closing all of their stores after 156 years in business. A&P was a supermarket chain founded in 1859. They grew to national success in the mid 1900’s and had stores from coast to coast. You might even remember your neighborhood A&P market or the smell of Eight O’clock brand coffee beans being freshly ground at the check outs.

In later years A&P acquired Super Fresh, Food Emporium, Waldbaums and Pathmark companies.

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My wife and I decided to take a trip down to the North Babylon store to say our final goodbye to some really good people that we both have worked with in the past.

You might ask yourself why are these people smiling, they are all going to be unemployed in a few days. They are smiling because they are all good people and veterans of this industry.  They have been raked over the hot coals by people they trusted and no matter what you throw at these people you can’t break their spirits.

Some of them started with this company as teenagers and have worked into their forties and fifties in hopes of retiring some day but they will have to put those plans on the shelf after the combination “one two punch” delivered by the union and company these past few years.

Before I piss some people off let me first state that I have been a loyal union member my whole life.  My first 10 years in the work force was in the automotive industry and I was a member of the United Auto Workers Union (a very strong union and not afraid of striking) and for the next 33 years I belonged to the UFCW Local 1500 (United Food And Commercial Workers) which in my experience was one of the weaker unions unfortunately.  The sad part is that most of my co workers never had the opportunity to work for a strong union and after this turn of events will probably never seek employment in union shops because they are so turned off.  Don’t get me wrong I’m not blaming the union for everything because there is plenty of blame to be shared by the mismanagement of the company also.

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Here is Nicky “two guns” (notice the two cups of coffee).

The first blow came from the union in 2010 when they changed the full retirement age to 65. In previous contracts the workers belonging to UFCW Local 1500 were eligible to retire after 30 years and age 55 with full pension (no medical included). I fell under one of those old contracts and was able to retire and collect my full union pension.  These other people (including my wife) have over 30 years in with the company but she is won’t be as lucky as I was.  Along with any other worker who was in their fifties at the time of the contract change my wife will have to work until she is 65 years old in a Local 1500 shop before being eligible to collect her full pension. The chances of that happening are pretty slim considering the ripple effect caused by the closing of this company. Some 30,000 jobs in 4 states will be affected.

Anyone who is familiar with the retail food business knows that workers bodies usually give out way before 60 years of age with a variety of ailments.  Lower back problems such as herniated discs from constant lifting or unsafe conditions (my issue).  Accelerated arthritis from working in refrigeration for years. Repetitive strain injuries from doing the same thing over and over every day.  Knee replacement surgery from having to pack out the lower shelves on your knees for years.

The excuse the union gave for raising the pension age was that not many people were taking advantage of the 55 year old retirement age.  In my opinion they were just trying to protect their stacks of pension money and decided to change the rules toward the end of game for many of these hard working people who counted on retiring at age 55.  I also think they knew what was coming down the road with the companies financials and didn’t want everyone retiring at age 55 and depleting their funds. If the union really wanted to do the right thing maybe they would change the retirement age back to 55 years of age for full pension and prove me wrong.  It would be the correct and decent thing to do at this time of great stress for workers who face unemployment for the foreseeable future.

The second blow came when the company decided to file for bankruptcy the first time in 2011 and the union agreed to major concessions such as sick days, vacation time and loss of paid holidays. There was also reduction in wages amounting to 6 1/4 %.  All of this was supposed to have been done to protect jobs and give us the impression that we would have some sort of job security by including a new clause in this revised contract about mandatory severence pay if the company ever decided to close stores.

The knock out blow came from the company claiming bankruptcy for the second time in July 2015 and deciding to liquidate the business rather than the management changing their antiquated strategy on how to run a business.

The union screwed them with their pension then the company screwed them by cutting their means of income.  Who else got screwed ?  The vendors that make a living delivering to the stores bread, eggs, cake, snacks you name it someone got screwed.

Before I go too far I have to correct myself because the company handed out over nine million dollars in executive bonuses the week before they filed for bankruptcy so not everyone got screwed. Its so ironic that the clowns that ran the company into the ground (yes the empty suits) get to go home and have a very merry holiday season with their fat bonuses, yet the people in the trenches, the hard workers get to walk away with nothing.  The bankruptcy judge didn’t even have the decency to give the workers the amount of severence pay they were originally promised in their revised contracts, he cut that amount in half which basically amounts to “gatz”.

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Terry’s BFF – Chris Fava

You might say Joe you sound very bitter ?  I guess you could say that. I feel someone has to say what is on everyones minds.  Is this turn of events going to affect Terry and I in a negative way ?  It might but most likely not. My heart really goes out to all the people who have worked for this company their whole life and still have mortgages to pay or their child’s college.  I wonder how many people are just going to pack it in and move out of state or even just walk away from their homes (lets face it Long Island is one of the highest taxed and cost of living areas in New York) $400 a week unemployment won’t go too far.

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Mark “I swear I wasn’t outside” but his Transitions eyeglasses say otherwise.

To see these people smiling is a testament to their strong backbone and spirits.

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Left to right Terry, Donna and Lucille.

And now we get to the part where I think a lot of people might be relieved the uncertainty will finally be over on Thursday.

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Our good friend Roia who seems to be have forgot the toothpicks that hold her eyes open and she also brushing up on her smiling skills lately (boy do I hate trying to take photos of Roia she’s so uncooperative :))

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Looks like a Terry sandwich how ironic 🙂 left to right Nick and Duncan (peace brother).

I had the pleasure to work with Nick for a few years and Terry and I have known Duncan forever.

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The remainder of the UFCW Local 342 meat cutters and deli workers.

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Left to right Duncan and “Big” George.

Terry and I have also known George forever.

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Denise and Terry

Denise has a very sexy voice and it is the opinion of most of her coworkers she should open a 1-900 phone sex line 🙂

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Roxanne – Psst are those Italian cookies Rox ?

We could always count on Roxanne to come through with the good stuff, not that fake Italian stuff they sold in the store.

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Hear no evil (Kevin) – Speak no evil (guess who) – See no evil (Michelle)

I have known Kevin since my first day on the job 36 years ago and boy do we have some funny stories to tell.

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It just wouldn’t be right if Louie was wearing his glasses on his eyes !

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Nick having to break the news to a customer that the “Soup of the Day” program has been cancelled until further notice.

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Left to right Kevin, Terry, Michelle and Doreen.

Kevin is smiling because he is thinking about one of those funny stories right now.

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This just about sums it up as of Thursday !

I hope I didn’t offend any of my friends pictured with my comments.  If I offended any union or company officials consider it partial payback for the way you screwed each and every one us directly or indirectly !

 

 

 

 

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66 thoughts on “Sample A Slice

  1. Tabby says:

    Joe, I’m glad you made this! Not only are you making many people aware of the injustices A&P have put all of our good friends, Terry, you, my mom, etc. but also you are giving some closure to these people. That visit you made with them will put this somewhat away with ease, after all most of the workers have known you for over a decade! 🙂

    I hope you and Terry are able to find some closure in this and that both of you find many opportunities in the future!

    Hopefully these won’t be like the way A&P had been treating their workers.

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  2. Love this post Joe, so many beautiful people! I feel bad for Terry and all the others losing their jobs… life can be so unfair sometimes. Wonderful kindness that you share for all the people involved by writing this post.

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  3. Joe, you’ve written such a heart-felt post. It’s painful to see the bad choices of management leading to so many lost jobs, especially when workers have put in years of time and dedication.

    The birth of unions came about to end the horrific working conditions that came about with the industrial age. 12 year olds on assembly lines, brutal injuries, unsafe working conditions, etc. Sadly, not all unions today are created equally. But without them, many workers in these industries would continue to suffer.

    I live and work in Silicon Valley, home of the high-tech giants. The larger employers here do not offer pensions, but wages, benefits and job perks are often so extraordinary that employees can save in a matching 401(K), IRA or other retirement scheme. I wish that were true for everyone. Walmart is still whining about paying $15 an hour. Better wages benefit everyone. Everyone. I don’t understand the greed.

    You’ve written a lovely tribute with gorgeous photos. I wish the best to your wife and all her co-workers as they look for opportunities.

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    • Thank you so much for your comments Alys 🙂 It is true that without unions the working conditions would be deplorable for most of the workers in the so called “trenches” and like I mentioned I am true blue union. I have worked a non union job in between my union jobs and there is no comparison between the two. Its just unfortunate that the union my wife and I had belonged to has sold so many workers out in this case. Like you say all unions are not created equal. Thank you again for you very kind comments Alys 🙂

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  4. Rant away, my friend. I don’t often get on a soapbox, but reading your post after yesterday’s horrific events in Paris, I am so sick to death of man’s inhumanity to man. I do consider the closure of these stores amid corporate greed and selfishness to be an act of violence as well – passive violence, but nonetheless devastating and with far-reaching effects for so many. Shame on them! My heart is heavy for Terry and all the other lovely people caught in the crosshairs of corporate capitalism. Thank you for sharing their story. May I share this post on Facebook?

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  5. A friend just shared this post on facebook, so glad I followed the link (you have a new follower 🙂 ) It is sad to see the state of affairs that have led to this. My mother, back in the 60’s &70’s was in the local 338 the original Waldbaums union. Then the merge into one larger union, which is the 1500 (from what she remembers) She got screwed over back then after the merger, losing her benefits because time didn’t carry over. it’s sad to see that they are continuing to screw over their employees over the years. Wishing your wife and all the other countless employees good luck in their future endeavors. Hopefully something better is on the horizon for them.

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    • Thank you very much Lilly 🙂 Its sad to see that your mom also got screwed over back then and they are still doing the same thing to this day. Thank you for following and your well wishes to my wife and the others affected, have a wonderful evening 🙂

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  6. I see the smiles on their faces, but I can see right through those smiles. They are hiding a great deal of pain and sorrow, not to mention the betrayal. I also feel their pain. I was one of one of the 1st employees to punch a Pathmark time card in that very same store, where you and I first met. Quite frankly, I am surprised the company survived as long as it did considering that back in 1987 their financial woes came to light with the leveraged buy out by the Dart Corporation. Up until that point the company was doing pretty well. The Union always managed to get us decent contracts, but it was all downhill from there. The journey from 1987 to present was a hard and uphill battle. Union contracts got increasingly harder to negotiate. In light of the fact that the union felt it was necessary to change the age of retirement from 55 to 65 midstream in 2010, and with the company’s 1st bankruptcy in 2011, it tells me that the company finally had the union with it’s back to the ropes. The union was now being controlled by the company. Of course, the union had to play along and keep it hush hush as to not start an uprising with it’s members. They knew full well what was coming, but obviously had their hands tied. So what did they do? They decided that it was better for them to lie and deceive their members than to admit to the truth! All the unions, not just local 1500, were affected by this deceit. They were led like lambs to the slaughter, and the rich got richer! I hope and pray that all who have been negatively affected by this ordeal, have the strength and courage to push forward to start the next chapter of their lives. There is life after Pathmark! Good luck and may God bless us all!

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    • Im sure all of them are reeling Gale but they are way too proud to do anything else. It truly was heartbreaking to take these images and between yesterday and today I have been visiting other stores and taking photos for a slide show to post on Facebook soon. Your comment lambs led to the slaughter is an accurate description for what the union and company did to them. Thanks for commenting 🙂

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  7. Maria says:

    Thank you for this beautiful and touching tribute. I remember meeting some of the people in the pictures when I was a little kid. My dad’s last day is today at the Patchogue store…it is heart breaking.

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    • Thank you very much Maria 🙂 Please wish your dad (John) the very best of luck for me in finding another job or retirement. I always liked him he was a lot of fun to work with.

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  8. Tom Laiacona says:

    Excellent job Joe!! You should send this to News 12 or Newsday and maybe even Judge Drain so he can put a face to the dilemma he contributed to. This is the best tribute you could have done for your fellow employees.
    Tom Laiacona

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    • Thank you very much Tom 🙂 I would do as you suggest but I’m afraid it will fall on deaf ears. The way the bankruptcy laws are written was to benefit the big corporations not the displaced workers. I’m sure Judge Drain sleeps very well after making his severance pay decisions because he along with the rest of the establishment is part of the problem.

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  9. Maria Cutaia says:

    Great job Joe! I have been with Pathmark since 1973 and retired out of massapequa this September….I know almost everybody in these pics and very close to Michelle……Roxanne and I have been bookkeepers for probably close to the same amount of time…..it saddens me to see all those damn “closing”signs in the company that gave me so much…….I met my husband, bought a house, had a son (who also worked there a short time) and made many many lifelong friends! I was lucky enough to have been able to retire but my heart goes out to all those many looking for new jobs…..you know once you start in Pathmark……we never left! It was always that kind of place you wanted to work in! Good luck to all 😉

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    • Thank you very much Maria 🙂 I was in North Babylon a couple of times in my 33 years and it was my favorite store to work in because of these same people. I retired in 2012 with the first round of buyouts but I always missed the closeness of the people in this store. It saddens me as much as anyone and I wish everyone the very best of luck. Please say hello to Charlie for me and thank you again.

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  10. My heart goes out to Terry and all your wonderful friends…beautiful faces all and it’s obvious what good folks they are. Reminds me of a line from Dickens’ “Scrooge” – “Are there not prisons, are there no work houses?” How pathetic that the execs get their bonuses. Theft indeed.

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    • Thank you very much Susan 🙂 There is an old Italian saying that goes like this “The fish stinks from the head down”. In this case it was only the head that stunk but the rest of the fish was terminally affected. White collar crime “ya gotta love it” and nobody is prosecuted !

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  11. *DISLIKE* on so many levels!!!

    The very worst out of all this story are the bonuses paid to the executives. In my opinion it is not only shameful but fraudulent and morally corrupt.

    I think you paid tribute to these fine people who are losing their jobs by telling their story with both your words and photos. I hope there is justice someday for the greedy, self-centred bastards at the top and the legal system that allows them to get away with their theft.

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  12. Thanks for this story post, Joe. The same thing happened to my grandfather, though I forget the exact details. But after being a union member (the aerospace industry) for his entire life- even holding office a couple of years- they were told to go on strike and the company then filed for bankruptcy. The union workers got screwed and my grandfather lost all his benefits and ended up living on $1100 a month from social security and $80 a month from the VA.

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    • It really is a shame on so many levels how the American worker always gets screwed by the combination of union misrepresentation and the company who always runs to bankruptcy court to make sure all of the executives escape with their golden parachutes. What a crock of shit ! Thank you my friend 🙂

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  13. Roxanne says:

    Joe that is great. Very well said and I love the pictures. Writing the union myself about the pension. It’s the least they can do for us considering they got raises all along.

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    • Thank you very much Roxanne 🙂 I think everyone who gets laid off and falls under the new pension guidelines should show up at the next general membership meeting and demand they make an pension exception for all who were affected. Very well said about their raises also. I wish you the best of luck 🙂

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  14. Donna Poliandro Buckman says:

    awww` Joe That’s BEAUTIFUL.
    WE had some good times and laughs. Right?? LOL.. It makes me sad though 😦
    Life Goes On. To be continued! Xxxx
    Annnd YOU did such a BEAUTIFUL job. “Photography”
    Do you do weddings

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    • Thank you very much Donna 🙂 We did have some great times and lots of laughs despite the crappy working conditions. I could never do weddings I don’t work well under pressure 🙂 I’m more of an observer.

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  15. Oh Joe, now you have me crying. That was beautifully written and photographed. Some of my all time favorite Pathmark people were captured. I was in Centereach, one of the first to close, it is hard to say goodbye.

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    • I’m sorry that I have you crying Kathryn that was not my intent. My intent was to show the people who did nothing but work hard and the fat cats still walked away with all the money. I’m glad you like my writing (I really don’t like to write) I tend to express myself more through images. It is very hard to say goodbye but hopefully everyone will land other feet and remember the words to the Who song “We Wont Get Fooled Again”. Thank you again and I wish you the best of luck Kathryn 🙂

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  16. JosephSerrapica says:

    Your words were inspirational my friend, I will take a ride myself to N. BABYLON PATHMARK to say good bye to my friends of long ago,God Bless!!!!

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  17. What a human and emotional blog post Joe. My heart goes out for all those smiling people that soon would be out of a job. I know what it means to be jobless. For more than ten years I had to freelance to bring food to the table. My wife had to re-enter the job market working for a blue-collar restaurant. Actually, she was the one mainly paying the bills. It hurt. It hurts a lot. Your remark about those executive bonuses are so typical of capitalistic corporations who play it rough for the little people while they open the golden parachutes to the CEOs. The bankrupcy of Lehman Brothers comes to my mind.

    Richard Fuld, head of Lehman Brothers, faced questioning from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) asked: “Your company is now bankrupt, our economy is in crisis, but you get to keep $480 million”.

    I feel blessed to have a permanent bi-weekly check from the Panama Social security until the day I die; so does my wife. Not worrying about unemployment is for us a blessing from God. Thank you for sharing this sad story and the faces of the people that got caught in the mess, without being responsible for the creation of the bankruptcy.

    Regards,

    Omar.-

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    • Thank you so much for your heartfelt comments Omar. One of the disadvantages to living in a capitalistic society is that big business controls government through their lobbying efforts. The rules for personal versus corporate bankruptcy are very different. With corporate bankruptcy all of the people who are in top get fed first. Whatever crumbs fall off the table are divided among the hard workers. The government, politicians, corporate executives, bankers are all the same breed to me. The reverse Robin Hood effect they steal from the poor to keep their standard of living high.

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  18. A fabulous post Joe. So sorry to hear the jobs are going after all the long uncertainty. A brilliant set of shots, humanity in each and every frame, and all full of personality. I love the one with Terry and Roia, her expression seems to sum up the feeling so well. Best wishes to Terry and all your friends for their futures.

    Do you know what plans are in store for the property? It looks to be a large piece of real estate.

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    • Thank you so much Patti 🙂 I think a lot of people are releived it is finally going to be over and they can move on to the next chapter of their lives. I forgot to mention in the post that Pathmark was in financial trouble since they mid 1980’s when the company principles borrowed a tremendous amount of money to fend off a leveraged buy out of the company from the Dart Group. That was the beginning of its downfall. When A&P bought us they were also the equivalent of a wounded dog (one debt laden company being bought by another one). Some of the stores were bought by union companies but the people who had a lot of union time in were rehired as new hires. Terry’s store was bought by Wakefern Corp. (Shop-Rite) and they are only willing to let the people who are losing their jobs apply for part time jobs in other locations. They are making sure to close the locations they bought for 3 to 6 months before they reopen so they can make sure the previous employees cannot file any grievances (they say for renovations) LOL. Most of the stores were bought by non union operators who are not willing to hire more than 25 % of the workers and at a much lower pay scale.

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      • Wow Joe, this whole pension payout business is going to be biting big time in the years ahead. Crunch those numbers and damn the little people. Meanwhile there are all these tax breaks for the philanthropically generous.

        I notice Food Emporium is biting the dust with closures all over town, now slowly morphing into Morton & Williams with the same old FoodEmp staff. Fairways is going that great now that Whole Foods opened up near it yet WF is on shaky ground as well as fare as share prices. It’s a jungle out there in the grocery aisles but aren’t they all almost owned by the one or two giant conglomerates?

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        • Thank you Patti and “damn the little people” is right. Food Emporium was part of A & P and I am relieved the new owner retained the employees. Fairway is also a union operator and seems to be expanding its reach. Whole Foods is the only non union operator that you mentioned and its ironic because they probably have the highest profit margin out of all of them (they seem to be plagued by e-coli and deceptive packaging blunders). I think the biggest conglomerate is Royal Ahold Co. which is the parent company of Stop & Shop and owns many other food companies.

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  19. Great story and photo’s Joe, do you know that everybody in the Netherlands have to work till at least 67? My retirement is at 67 and five months..

    Retirement at 55 is for Greeks. And wé know the costs of that..

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