This week I started my job at Anthropologie and went through all the new hire and training hoops that come with any new job. Work has always been something that is very important to my family, and I have always held a summer job ever since I was fifteen. These jobs have ranged from childcare to the restaurant industry and now into retail. Each one has taught me valuable lessons and given me a sense of purpose that I truly enjoy.
However, COVID-19 has obviously changed industries and reshaped our economy in ways previously unimaginable. Many companies and stores had to close their doors and abruptly make decisions regarding employment and requirements of employees. Now as businesses have reopened, gaps have appeared in employment; a range of theories have been presented as to why this has occurred.
Of course politicians offer their two-cents and blame each other’s initiatives: Republicans blame the unemployment checks and Democrats point at the minimum wage and work conditions. There is truth in both theories. Yes, there are some who benefitted from unemployment checks, but really those checks were nothing crazy. There are still many positions not filled that pay above minimum wage and were previously desired. Economists claim that higher vaccination rates will bring people back to work, but even with widespread vaccinations many businesses are still short-staffed.
It has highlighted the value of the worker and his or her essential role in the function of a much larger corporation. For the first time in a while, the workers hold a significant amount of power in regard to employment options. They can entertain different offers and employers are having to offer incentives to coax people their way. The United States has a national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and people are simply not willing to work for that amount. Estimates vary, but there are still millions of job openings. Competition is fierce, but not for the job seekers. It is still not uncommon to pull up to a fast food establishment or a restaurant and see a “Now Hiring: Signing Bonus” sign as well as a smaller one with adjusted hours or just unpredictable closures due to lack of labor. I am also aware of multiple restaurants being unable to open for lunch due to lack of labor. As inconvenient and somewhat frustrating as this can be, it has been long overdue for the restaurant worker to gain recognition.
As I mentioned, I have held an assortment of jobs with two of them being a hostess and a waitress. Both of these required hard-work in difficult circumstances and mistreatment due partially to ignorance of the challenges of the position. Now, positions such as those have become difficult to fill, and I cannot say I am surprised. Due to my school schedule as well as a certain level of privilege, I have not had to keep these positions for very extended periods of time, and I must say that I am grateful. While I have absolutely loved my co-workers and will encourage everyone to have a “job” before a “career,” they are exhausting.
Treat every retail and restaurant industry worker with kindness; they are working diligently and trying their best to satisfy you because, believe me, we might want you to get your food faster than you do.