Sheila Davies owns three Sheila’s Roadhouse restaurants in Atlanta. Recently, she’s had to reduce hours for her businesses because she can’t find enough staff to cover shifts. “Nobody wants to work!” she said, “They’d rather sit at home and draw an unemployment check.”
While federal unemployment benefits ran out in September, you may have still noticed long lines, long wait times, and low stock at retail establishments. Many fast-food restaurants never reopened their dining rooms, keeping them drive-thru only citing staff shortages and cleaner bathrooms. While wages seem to be inching upward, it still isn’t enough to compete with the $15 minimum wages offered by warehouse jobs that aren’t on the front lines.
Davies added, “I offered free appetizers at the interview (not including wings), then a $100 sign-on bonus (after 300 days), and even offered to skip drug testing (never did)! What else can I do?” We suggested medical insurance. “That’s what non-slip shoes are for, which we don’t provide,” she retorted.
One of Davies’ former servers, Mia Martinez told us, “After transportation and childcare, I owed money instead of making it. I just spent 8 hours on my feet for nothing. That’s time I could have spent with my family.” On top of pay, Martinez also talked about being worried about bringing the virus home to her kids or getting sick herself.
In response, Davies said, “By law, we pay servers $2.13 an hour because they make tips. The sky’s the limit to how much they can make…after they tip out the bartender, busboys, and pay taxes on their total sales. They just gotta smile and put some effort into their looks to get the good tips.”
According to Martinez, there’s more to it than smiling. “Customers take it out on us through tips when their food takes too long, or we’re out of Gut Buster Chili, or there’s no toilet paper in the bathrooms…and how can we smile through our masks?”
When asked if she’d considered offering a higher wage, hazard pay, or benefits for full-time employees Davies shook her head, “It’s not like they’re working for peanuts. They get all the free peanuts they can sweep up off the floor!”
The current unemployment rate is less than one point away from where it was before the shutdown, yet employers still struggle to hire. Davies wanted to say, “Try being a small business owner during a pandemic. You think you know stress? My family also owns several residential buildings in the area, and let me tell ya, those tenants are even more ungrateful than my employees!”
When asked about her new job prospects Mis answered, “I think I’ll apply at Amazon. I heard they give drivers a fresh pee bottle every shift, and if you get evicted they give you free boxes.”