As pandemic safety measures are lifted across the U.S. amid the mass vaccination efforts, businesses that are fully reopening are having a hard time finding the staff to keep their stores running and are beginning to complain that “no one wants to work anymore.” Some are blaming the increase in unemployment benefits to levels that can actually keep some people afloat as well as the recent one-time survival payments of $1400 for eligible individuals provided months ago by the most recent stimulus bill.
However, people who have and still are working in low-wage retail and service industry jobs have another idea for why workers aren’t flooding back to these jobs — the pay is too low and the benefits are non-existent.
As Tennessee Democrat Christopher Hale, along with many others, have pointed out, restaurant jobs in his several states are allowed to pay their servers almost nothing as long as their tips technically reach a total of the federal minimum wage, which has stagnated at $7.25 for 12 years. Meanwhile, in areas where the wages are a little higher, they’ve been completely outpaced by the high cost of living in and around major cities.
Many of these supposedly lazy workers that businesses are complaining about have come forward to explain that these low wages are simply unlivable, and it’s not worth it to them to have to work themselves to exhaustion and still not be able to afford rent. If businesses want to attract workers again, they’re simply going to have to offer wages that people can live on, as was supposed to be the deal under capitalism.
Other workers have expressed that in addition to low wages and zero benefits, working conditions have declined for low-wage jobs to the point that they’re done putting up with it anymore. One former Chipotle manager described having trouble retaining employees because the stress they were put under wasn’t worth a measly $10 per hour. When ice storms hit West Virginia in February, he hit his own breaking point.
“I contacted the field leader and told him we needed to close early, my staff feels unsafe,” Chris Drown told Business Insider. “It was expected that even if I was there by myself, I would have to keep the store open until close no matter what.”
“So I closed the store, went home, and never came back.”
Drown reports that five more employees at that Chipotle store quit soon after and that as of the date of his interview, “they are operating with online orders only and limited hours because they still can’t keep up.”
To anyone who actually listens to those who have had to work jobs like these, it’s clear that businesses whining and attempting to guilt-trip them into accepting garbage wages and conditions isn’t going to do the trick.