The unemployment line is long, just like the wait at many restaurants. After approaching two years of unemployment under COVID-19, many are choosing to stay on the welfare program rather than jumping back into the workforce. Then again, why would they?
While multibillion dollar industries hide their customers’ dissatisfaction behind a so-called “worker shortage”, what they fail to disclose is that they are expecting these employees to work for less than a livable wage, and oftentimes risk their physical and mental health in exchange.
Since the start of quarantine, there has been a major emphasis on protecting your own mental health over any underpaying job. Once restaurants reopened, servers didn’t reappear like managers thought they would. Neither did cashiers, fast food employees or many other hourly associates. While it is true that many of these people can stay at home and make more than they would waiting tables 40 hours a week, you can’t blame them.
North Carolina last raised the state minimum wage in 2008, leaving it at $7.25 an hour. While states have the ability to raise minimum wage on their own, North Carolina has always opted to keep it at the minimum required by the federal government. The estimated rate of inflation since 2008 is 28.47 percent, making prices up to 1.28 times higher. The standard was set in a different time, one that had never seen a deadly pandemic wipe the country off its feet.
Times are simply different. Not only are everyday items more expensive, but there are more necessities allotted to every household. Increases in the need for cleaning products, masks and healthier foods due to generational disabilities have burdened American homes since the beginning of the pandemic. Mental illness as well as immune diseases have come to the forefront of public health during the pandemic.
While the government grapples with the economic effects of the loss of labor, real life employees are on the front lines dealing with the angry customers and understaffed work places. Senior Jatorra Judge has worked at a McDonald’s franchise since May 2020. While she works 25-30 hours a week during the school year, her work place has experienced major worker shortages.
“People have walked out… and that has affected us because that will leave us short to have to pick up their work… If you’re going to overwork us, you should probably pay us more too,” Judge said.
Unemployment benefits are based on your estimated income from your previous job. Americans are able to make the same amount of money they did before COVID-19 and work places are taking no extra measures to welcome their employees back to work.
While unemployment eventually runs out, people who became employed during the pandemic continue to struggle to find work with a fair wage, despite oftentimes enduring more work than they signed up for.
While working a part-time job remains a reality for many teens, modern employers attempt to stretch availability and fill their workplaces schedule by any means necessary.
“I’ve been called into work on days off… At least three times a month, we have had so much employee turnover that I am technically the second most senior employee,” senior Brendan Curley said, specifying that during this period of time while working at a local pet store he has been offered no pay raise.
There can be dramatic effects on a work place’s efficiency when the leadership is taken on by overworked teenagers. Without the pivotal years of maturity under their belt, many workplaces find themselves struggling with customer interactions and associate relationships.
On top of this, retired people are not willing to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and others who are immuno-compromised are not able to work. With these crucial members of the workforce suddenly absent, businesses are faced with a shortage, due in great part to the low wages and neglect of their employees.
The realistic solution to this issue would be for workplaces to offer incentives to associates, such as higher wages, or paid time off. Some are doing just that, but it appears that many employers continue to blame their own insufficient work environment on the work force’s laziness.
With more to work for and less to work with during a pandemic, Americans have chosen to find other employment or to find other ways to make money. This is a wake-up call to U.S. employers to realize the importance of their own work force, and to raise hourly wages and improve the work environment. If this is done, we will see the American economy bounce back stronger than ever before.