Who makes your paper bags?

Sometimes I’m reminded of the anonymity of jobs on the bottom of the wage and respect scale.  A few years ago I was folding and putting away a clean brown paper bag that had held groceries or a loaf of bread from one of our local bakeries, and I found a name printed on the bottom of it:  Wigberto Serpa.  Even in nations of hispanohablantes, this is a pretty unusual name.  After seeing names, and occasionally dates, printed on the bottoms of a few more bags, I realized that this was done by the manufacturers for quality control, so they could see who was gluing correctly – and doubtless time these poor workers to make sure they were gluing enough bags per minute.  Yuck, I thought, that must be a bad enough job without supervisors breathing down your neck about the rapidity of your gluing.

On the other hand, it’s an almost daily reminder to me that paper bags don’t simply put themselves together, that a person who’s probably making poverty-level wages is gluing these things after a machine folds them.  Here are the other names I’ve recorded from my paper bags in the last couple of years, in chronological order by date of acquisition:

  • C Diaz, March 14, 2014
  • Maria Nolasco, June 25, 2013
  • C Cunningham, Nov. 5, 2013
  • J. Leal, Oct. 10, 2013
  • Ana Velezquez, Nov. 27, 2013
  • Gloria R, Oct. 4, 2013
  • Tara Henyard, Nov. 1, 2013
  • Angela Okwei & Enrique Marquez, Nov. 1, 2013
  • Juana S, Sept. 25, 2013
  • Miguel Becerra, July 16, 2013
  • E. White, Feb. 23, 2014; Aug. 15, 2013
  • Walter Gomez, Aug. 11, 2013
  • Robert McClain & Bill Anderson, Aug. 28, 2013
  • Y. Torres, June 7, 2013
  • Marie Clervoyant, June 25, 2013
  • Dinora Perez, March 16, 2013
  • M Romero, March 22, 2013
  • Mili Lara, Nov. 10, 2013; March 18, 2013; Dec. 7, 2011; May 11, 2011
  • Bonnie Morante, Apr. 15, 2013
  • Alice Pedro, Aug. 8, 2012
  • Jeanns C, Feb. 5, 2013
  • Soledad Miranda & Greg Huggins, Apr. 16, 2013
  • Ana Cortes, Dec. 26, 2012
  • Teofilo Cerna, July 30, 2012
  • Godoi, Nov. 13, 2012
  • Jarad Robinson, March 18, 2013; Sept. 18, 2012
  • Steven Gioiosa
  • Gabe Maldonado & Soledad Miranda, June 3, 2012
  • Marleny R, Sept. 10, 2012
  • Agustin Zavala & Al Da La Cruz, Sept. 21, 2012
  • Thea Eleazer, June 28, 2012
  • Myriam Sanchez, June 20, 2012
  • A Alonso, April 25, 2012
  • Luz Jimenez, March 20, 2012
  • Wigberto Serpa (otra vez!), Feb. 5, 2013; May 18, 2012
  • Maria Lechuga & Darlene Jones, March 5, 2012
  • Hernandez, May 23, 2012
  • Evangelina Gomez, June 14, 2012
  • Patricio Mesa, July 24, 2012
  • Ruperto Acevedo, July 9, 2012
  • Maria Araujo, June 20, 2012; March 21, 2012
  • Carla Quintero, May 10, 2012; June 24, 2010
  • Patricia Jimenez, Dec. 20, 2011
  • Alicia Olivares, March 13, 2012
  • Iris Lewis, Feb. 28, 2012
  • Rashaad Brewer & Joanne Harrison, Dec. 6, 2011
  • Sheila Smith & Jose Guerrero, March 13, 2012
  • Maria Chumbiray, Aug. 27, Apr. 12, March 17, 2012
  • Brenda Nieves
  • Jerome Fenelus, Jan. 3, 2012; Aug. 10, 2011
  • Ana Velezquez & DuJuan Muhammad
  • Fernando Torres & Fernando Garcia, Jan. 20, 2012
  • Marlene Alvarez, Dec. 5, 2011
  • Veris Davis, Sept. 8, 2011
  • M. Rios, July 5, 2012; Nov. 15, 2011
  • Robert McClain & Maria Lechuga, Dec. 27, 2011
  • G. Caldera, Dec. 14, 2011
  • Lizzie Nina, Sept. 7, 2011
  • Nancy Brito, Sept. 23, 2011
  • M Lugo, Oct. 26, 2011
  • Gladis, March 15, 2006
  • F. Solorzano, Oct. 10, 2011
  • James McCoy, Jan. 29, 2013; Oct. 7, 2011
  • Maria Colon, Oct. 24, 2013; July 10, 2012; Sept. 9, 2011
  • Benjamin Lu, Sept. 6, 2011
  • L. Gonzalez, Aug. 10, 2011
  • C. Proa, Jan. 26, 2012 & May 6, 2011
  • Jesus Garcia, July 6, 2011
  • Andrew Forester, Sept. 26, 2011
  • M Reyes, June 9, 2011
  • Junel Revolus, Aug. 18, 2011
  • Jose Guerrero, May 13, 2011
  • Fernando Torres, Sept. 20, 2011
  • Max Znika
  • Alma Martinez, July 29, 2011
  • Jeanns C. Flores, Feb. 24, 2011
  • Maria Figueroa, July 5, 2011
  • T Ramos
  • Gabe Maldonado & B. Bautista, Oct. 13, 09
  • Irma Quiroz, March 20, 2012; June 22, 2011
  • J Duarte, Oct. 15, 2010
  • T Camea
  • Antonia de la Prida, May 4, 2011
  • Nayda Rivera, May 16, 2011
  • Gilsela Cardoza, Dec. 22 & June 6, 2011
  • Flora Alegria
  • J Michelle A
  • Nunez
  • Sylvia Barahona, March 9, 2011
  • Gladis Fuentes
  • Fernando Garcia
  • Maritza Molejon
  • Vilma Guevara
  • Zulma Bermudez
  • Ernesto Cruz
  • T Juanita
  • Gloria F.
  • Blanca Salazar
  • Luis Colon, Jan. 30, 2010
  • Agnieska Bielecka, Aug. 18, 2010
  • Jose Rodrigues
  • Yanisbel S., Apr. 28, 2010
  • Blanca Guillen, 2010; Oct. 10, 2013
  • Lonnie Newsome, Dec. 29, 2009
  • Gloris Corona, Nov. 2, 2009
  • Christian Gonzalez, Feb. 16, 2009
  • Yanexy Salcines, Jan. 12, 2009
  • Andres Zegarra
  • Melva L. Galeano
  • Yolanda Williams, Aug. 23, 2013; March 31, 2008
  • Jorge Vazquez

(Yes, I know:  I should use my reusable bags much more than I do.  But I have memory problems and often forget to bring the bags when I shop.)

About these ads

About springbyker

See more at: springbyker.wordpress.com. Feminist QBLTG Left activist grammarian & general crank. Love grassroots political movements, literature, independent film, travel in Latin America, bicycling, & good vegetarian food. I plan to write about all of these, plus being a recovering clutterer, writing, and saving the planet from suburban sprawl.
This entry was posted in Labor, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to Who makes your paper bags?

  1. Thais Brodeur says:

    intense & fascinating.
    Thanks for posting on this!

  2. Justin says:

    This is part of what makes you such a good writer: not only to notice a small but very human detail such as this but to take the time to acknowledge the place of these otherwise anonymous individuals in your lfe– and by extension, to make us aware of the place of these or similar people in our own lives. One of the hallmarks of capitalism is the increasing diminution of the importance of the individual; if we are to have any chance of overcoming this process it will take individual awakenings– not necessarily dramatic, yet still significant– such as this brief but poignant and compelling essay provided. I will be looking more closely at my own paper bags in the future….

  3. springbyker says:

    Thank you, Justin! Note to capitalists: I didn’t pay him to write this comment.

  4. Ted says:

    I did exactly what you did. I was looking at the paper bag I was folding and noticed that there was writing on it. It was Zulma Bermudez. This person is on your list. The date on the bag is April 11, 2011. I couldn’t figure out what this name was so I put it in Bing and your site popped up. Thanks for the information.

  5. alexander says:

    Hi my mane is alex and I work for Duro bag manufactoring
    A friend of mine (Nestor Montoya) told me about your interesting article witch named many of our co workers, but what I like to comment it’s, that it takes a lot more effort and more people then you think to make your paper bag colection.

  6. Katherine Gleason says:

    Thank you for this! I was putting a small, brown bag into my reuse pile and saw the name Sylvia Barahona on the bottom and was curious. Date on the bag: Dec 04, ’10.

    I also have one marked Crisya Pineda, Jul 16, ’11 and two that read Jesus Garcia, Feb 3, ’11.

    Thanks, Duro employees! Nice bags!!

  7. Jef says:

    Maritza Molejon made the paper bag I bought today.

  8. J says:

    Christian Gonzalez bag made September 2, 2011, reused today in Maine. Thank you,
    Mr. Gonzalez.

  9. Marcelo M says:

    Hi,
    I found a bag (bagels) made by Blanca Guillen (Nov 18 11, EL 18 C)
    Brown paper bag “Duro 12″

  10. Lizzie says:

    Agnieska Bielecka made one of your bags in 2010. She made mine on September 22, 2011. Glad to know she’s still at it!

  11. Lexa says:

    Maritza Molehon made the bag that held my breakfast this morning. I like the sense of craftrsmynship that even stamping the name brings…

  12. Treesa says:

    Maria Lechuga made my bag on 11-10-11. But I’m ripping the bag apart to re-use it for an art project for my living room…. :)

  13. Bizzle says:

    I have a really nice F. Solorzano here. Glued perfectly. Really nice work!!! Willing to sell…

  14. Jen says:

    Very interesting! I have a bag made by Marlene Alvarez on Nov. 23, 2011. I got it at a bakery in Philly last night.

  15. PJ, NYC says:

    Thank you Maria Figueroa!

    Paper beats plastic every time.

    • Christopher says:

      I second that! Maria made all the bags currently in my cafe. Thank you Maria!

    • Jeanne says:

      Maria Figueroa Nov 19, 2012, made two bags i have gotten from a convenience store near where i work. I looked up her name, because I had never seen someone’s name stamped on the bottom of a brown paper bag before, so was curious to know what that meant, especially since it had a date, too. Because of this article, now i know!

  16. Marlene Lillo-Smith says:

    GM, I purchased a coconut pastry this morning at a bakery on 6th avenue, New York, NY. My brown bag was sitting on my desk when I realized that at the bottom it had a name printed, my own first name! What a coincidence! Marlene Alvarez, apr 17 12 EL 49 B. Thank you Marlene!

  17. Marlene Lillo-Smith says:

    By the way, today I am celebrating my anniversary….. I left Santiago, Chile on June 13th, 1990… destination: New York. It has been 22 years!!! We are living very interesting times! Congratulations to all immigrants that share my anniversary!

  18. Michael Jahn says:

    Tanya Cheeks, April 29, 2012. Love that one.

  19. mike says:

    I have a duro 12 brown paper bag dated april 16th 2012 yolanda williams. Guess she still works there.

    • Thomas says:

      I have a Yolanda Williams dated May 19 09, 3 yrs at duro for her at least! Good job Yolanda! It caught my eye because that’s also my mothers first name!

  20. Dee says:

    I got a bag today from Stop & Shop made by Maritza Molejon Jun 18 12.

  21. Jon J says:

    Went to Mcdonald’s Located on exit 48 off off Sunrise Highway in Long Island NY. Purchased a breakfast meal the contents were securely delivered to me in a bag assembled by Maria Araujo on August 15th 2012. Thank you Maria for your attention to detail and steady hand when crafting this bag otherwise my food may have ended up on the side of my car. As i ate my meal I noticed her name on the bottom of the bag and decided to search the web for her name and low and behold there it was in your list of name. Looks like Duro is the go to manufacture of paper bags.

    • springbyker says:

      Thanks to Jon and everyone else using these paper bags for commenting here! I love that we get to see the name of the person who makes a small product that helps us in our daily lives. Yesterday I ended up with another bag made by Wigoberto Serpa!

  22. Matthew says:

    Thanks, Jesus Garcia. On August 21, 2012, you made the bag that held the bagel and fruit cup I brought with me to work on September 23. I later filled it up with air and popped it behind my co-worker’s head to scare her, and we both laughed really hard. Then I recycled it.
    Thanks springbyker for maintaining this list.
    - Baltimore, Maryland

  23. sfrieson says:

    I have an Alicia Olivares bag as well but on Nov 08 11. What a wild idea. Mine is a white paper lunch sized bag labeled Duro 5. How do you have bad from the future? Have you updated this article?

    • springbyker says:

      Hi! I update the blog every time I obtain a bag with a new name. But I’m trying to start re-using some of the bags I’ve collected, instead of getting new ones, which is wasteful. I have to admit, though, I really love seeing the names — makes me feel connected in a small way to the people who made the bags.

  24. j says:

    Tanya Cheeks, midtown Manhattan, 23 Oct. 2012

  25. Matthew says:

    Godoi – February 1, 2012. I like to think that Godoi is an ascetic because the bag is made with such care and precision.

  26. E says:

    Found this by searching for the name on the bottom of my bag — another Marlene Alvarez classic, Oct. 04 12. Thanks for posting! One question: Any idea what the other letters and numbers mean? (eg. EL 45 B)

    • springbyker says:

      I don’t know what those codes mean. I’ll try to find some time on “Thankstaking” weekend to get in touch with one of the workers who’s emailed me, and see if he can tell us. Thanks for reading!

  27. Iown You says:

    Tanya Cheeks, 9/12/12

    Good work! Nice bag!

  28. Adidas says:

    Thanks for this article. I am in Boston, MA and have a quality bag in my hand from Blanca Salazar – also on your list. Googled the name and “bag” and found a community of likeminded curiosity.

  29. Bear (oso) says:

    i found the name Arely Salgado on the bottom of my duro 12 bulwark paper bag. the date was 12 12 12.

    • springbyker says:

      Thanks, Bear oso! And thanks to everyone who comments about their bags on the blog! Lately when I fold up a bag for recycling in my office, I see the maker’s names on the bottom and feel a friendly connection — “Oh, Arely again!” I love how we’re all sustained by each other’s work.

  30. PIper says:

    Thank you Tanya Cheeks. :)

  31. LH says:

    My falafel lunch from SoomSoom, midtown Manhattan, came in a paper bag stamped Jesus Garcia (Dec 02 12). I never noticed names on bags before & when I googled it I came to this site. Great post.

  32. Matthew says:

    Thea Eleazer – how could you know that when you made this bag on AUG 08 12 that it would find me in the Mars Supermarket on Rolling Road on FEB 26 13? It passed the test – carrying my chicken soup – with flying colors. Thanks!

  33. DIRNDL SKIRT says:

    I too have been aware of these names and saving the bags. Yolanda Williams, Hola! Lizzie Nina, so good to see you here again! Sometimes there are years of gaps between sightings. All of you deserve to be noticed. I have started making them into collage art. I have a fantasy of visiting Duro and meeting some of these people, somehow incorporating that experience into part of the art. To balance out the excess of the designer bags of the fashion world. Anyhow, I googled Duro to read about the company and saw your blog. Hmmm…now I am even more motivated :)

    • springbyker says:

      Thanks, Dirndl Skirt! I’m really glad to hear that you’re incorporating the bags in your art — great idea! I liked one of the names so much, I hung part of the bag on my bulletin board at work and have left it there for a couple of years. I hope you get to the factory if you want to visit. I haven’t been on a shop floor since touring several cooperatives businesses in Buenos Aires two years ago. It’s interesting to see all that workers have to do to produce the products we middle-class consumers take for granted, but ultimately the experience made me feel like a gawking tourist. I guess that’s another blog post…

      • DIRNDL SKIRT says:

        Hi Springbyker~ just wanted to let you know I am finally putting concept into action! At least in the studio. After I get about 2 dozen finished I may try to kick it up to the next ladder rung with a call to their people about visiting a factory:

        http://dirndlskirt.com/2013/08/11/bag-lady/

        Hope all’s well in Buenos Aires!

      • springbyker says:

        Wow, that is fantastic news! I’m so glad to hear it, and I hope you’re able to do the factory visit.

        I’m not quite in Buenos Aires yet, but soon… Which reminds me: my visits to cooperatively run factories there, with other grad students from the University of Massachusetts, were really interesting and eye-opening. That trip partly opened my eyes to the everyday objects we use and made me think about the people who made them. Someone has to create that toothpaste tube, aluminum pie plate, candy wrapper, book, bread…

  34. Suzanne E. says:

    I have a bag made by Marlene Alvarez from a local bakery in Washington, DC. 1/29/13, so she’s still hard at it. Thanks, Ms. Alvarez!

  35. kim says:

    It’s July 9th, and Jerome Fenelus made the bag we got today at lunch, on Feb 18th, 2013! You have him on your list twice already. Glad to see he’s still doing a good job. Or at least he was until this past Feb.

    • springbyker says:

      Hi Kim! Whoops, I guess I need to edit — I try to list additional dates after the makers’ names. It’s always interesting to see how long it takes the shops to use the bags after they’re made — but unlike food, the bags never get stale.

      Your quilts on your blog are beautiful! You have a lot of talent!

  36. Liz says:

    As I was crumpling-up a bag I got today for my recycling bin, I noticed “Lizzie Nina Feb 27 13″ on the bottom. I’m sure it stood out to me because my nieces call me “Aunt Lizzie.” On a whim, I Googled the name and was pleasantly surprised to find your blog post. Very interesting and thoughtful. Thanks for sharing.

    • springbyker says:

      Thank you, Liz! I’ve been looking lately at the bags my co-workers bring into the office and thinking about how many different people I’ve “met” through reading their names on the bags. Thanks for reading!

  37. Henry says:

    I got a Wigberto Serpa bag today with one of my delivery orders.

  38. Cindy says:

    found your post very interesting. I, too, noticed a name & date on a Duro 6 brown bag. It was Evangelina Gomez, June 25, 2013 and she is on your list.

  39. Pingback: Bag Lady | Dirndl Skirt Gatherings

  40. bagman says:

    my bacon egg in cheese came in a bag with the name Gladis Fuentes. the bag is brown and held the sandwich inside really well. there goiod for a sandwich and a drink but if you get two drink youll be pushing it. color is nice and smells like paper. 10/10

  41. Diedra B says:

    I have a bag from a cafe in NYC. Got it on 10/11/2013. It says Marlene Alvarez. Dec 03 12 EL 49 B
    Nice egg, cheese, and turkey on toasted whole wheat with hot sauce.

  42. BobB says:

    I have a Carla Quintero Aug 19, 2013. It’s a perfect bag. I want say something to all of the people at Duro who are not mentioned. You all must be doing a fantastic job even if your name is not mentioned here. Everyone is reporting that these are really good bags.

    • springbyker says:

      Thanks, Bob! That’s a really good point — I’ve been trying to reuse my bags lately, and they do hold up well. Our local recycling company now is collecting compost in them, too, so after a number of uses, they’re returning to the earth.

  43. cillab says:

    I just noticed this as well when I went to pick up holiday pies and saw my bf’s last name “Zegarra” printed on the bottom of one of these bags! Crazy that you wrote this and I could get to the bottom of why it was there!

  44. David Sysko says:

    Roberto Vasquez Jr. Oct 14 13
    I also uploaded a picture at brown paper project.com . There are over 220 bags in a database there. I like this connection to the bag makers. Thanks.

  45. killstead says:

    Nov 20 13
    EL 18 C
    Blanca Guillen
    -On Dec 20th I bought a sandwich from Cozy Soup & Burger (on Broadway at Astor Place, in Manhattan), and received it in a Duro brown bag by Blanca Guillen, and had the code above. Another well-made bag that will be reused. Thanks for blogging about this.

  46. Whitfield says:

    I worked for Durobag many years, and while it was very gratifying to hear all the nice comments, it is important to note that the bags in question are ALL machine made. The operator(s) or CT’s monitor the machines. The machines run at such high speeds all these people can do is grab and pack. They are an extremely dedicated group and deserve better treatment by Duro.

    • springbyker says:

      Thank you, Whitfield. We don’t hear enough from the workers, to say the least. And those of us who haven’t worked there don’t know what the conditions are, so I appreciate the insider information.

  47. Whitfield says:

    I noticed several people have shown an interest in the manufacturing code on the bottom of the bag. While it may vary from plant to plant the basic code is as follows; Day, Month, Plant, Machine#, Shift produced. For example bags produced today in Elizabeth NJ, on machine 49 between 7:00am – 3:00pm, would look like this; 20 01 EL 49 A. The code may vary, however, this is the basic format. The Elizabeth plant is slowly be phased out, and all those people whose names are on those bags will soon be out of work. Durobag closes at least one plant a year.

    • springbyker says:

      Thank you again — very interesting. Why is the company closing plants? Are they consolidating the work, sending it to another plant in the US? Do the owners plan to send the work to another country, so they can pay lower wages?

  48. Whitfield says:

    The other Duro plants are in Kentucky or out west, where the wages are much lower and most don’t have unions. The plant manager was brought in from the closed Virginia plant to dismantle the Elizabeth plant. The employees there work in unsafe and stressful conditions. If you check Duro history, you’ll find upper management changes constantly and Elizabeth suffers.

  49. BlueBicycle says:

    Picked up a white Duro 12 holding two pastries from La Dulce Vita; white bag expertly assembled by Blanca Guillen Mar 05 13 (EL 18 C). I was curious about the name “Blanca Guillen” and googled it, thinking Guillen was the name of a specific type of bag. Guess I was off there.

    Sorry to hear the EL factory will be closing. If Duro is closing their factories one by one, where will our bags get made? Poverty level wages (as mentioned above, and if true) in the USA are better than sending the work off-shore, where the work conditons will be worse and impact out trade deficit.

    • Whitfield says:

      The reduction in production costs will not be passed along to the consumer. Bags will still be distributed by American companies. Paper bags are produced in China, Israel, and Korea. Poverty level wages help no one. Workers spend as many as 12 hrs a day, 6 days a week, away from their families, barely making ends meet. These type of jobs destroys families and weakens our society.

      • springbyker says:

        Thanks for the additional information, Whitfield. I couldn’t agree more that low wages and ridiculous hours are unacceptable, in the US or anywhere else.

  50. BlueBicycle says:

    Forgot about the other bag I brought home from the samestore, carrying orher pastries:
    OCT 31 13
    EL 26 c
    GODOI
    What makes this bag unique is that the flap with the stamp was glued under the blank flap, i.e. they were reversed. I guess GODOI’s fingers got them confused, or the bag arrived at the workstation mis-oriented

  51. Whitfield says:

    Since bags are produced for other companies, sometimes stamps, and or names are hidden, per company request. The bags are not hand made. The machine does all the work, the person only stacks the bags to be bundled. Their names are there to hold them accountable for defects returned to the plant.

    • springbyker says:

      So my original notion, that the names were on the bags as a potential punitive measure, was correct. I wanted to do something else with the names: enable paper bag users or consumers to notice that a human being had helped create their bags. Thanks again, Whitfield.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s