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The Guardian

‘It’s a minefield’: American restaurateurs quit industry because of Covid

Workers cite operating practices and the lack of Covid safety protections, as some employers and officials say unemployment benefits deter people from returning to work. People dine out in New York City on May 4. Photograph: Spencer Platt / Getty Images Jake Galardi Marko has worked in the restaurant industry for the past 10 years and recently took a new position as a waiter at a Cheesecake Factory in Las Vegas, after leaving his job at the Two-year-old Olive Garden during pandemic due to customer abuse of Covid-19 protections. “It is a minefield of hazardous work environments and operating practices that still permeate recruitment and training processes,” he said. “People always say, but we tip, so it can’t be that bad. It is an excuse to ignore abusive and exploitative practices. Before starting his new job, he applied to dozens of restaurants and had several interviews, and noted that many restaurants are in a chaotic state and unprepared to hire new workers. He said they lure potential recruits with signing bonuses that don’t materialize, promises of higher wages, or only apply for a position to be told on the first day of hire that they have to start in. as long as busser and progress. . He quit a job because the restaurant did not enforce coronavirus safety protections. “I plan to leave the industry every day. Most of us do, but we have bills to pay, the rent is due every month. Many of us have children to support, ”he added. “The entire industry is tackling desperation.” Yet the restaurant industry has been behind recent allegations of labor shortages, with the American Chamber of Commerce, some employers and Republican elected officials saying unemployment benefits deter Americans from returning to the workplace. job. This was especially the case after the surprisingly poor employment figures last week, which showed that the unemployment rate remained stubbornly high in the United States. Whole Industry Takes on Despair Jake Galardi Marko The Republican-led states of Montana, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi have now cited the claims in decisions to end federal unemployment benefits. Economists from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius have dismissed categorical claims that unemployment benefits are the determining factor for some industries facing problems in hiring new or replacement workers. According to a recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, until March, there were an average of 9.8 million unemployed compared to 8.1 million vacancies. Several industries, including accommodation and food services industries, had more than 1.5 unemployed persons per job posting. Regarding labor shortage demands, the Institute for Economic Policy noted that such demands would be short lived as the accommodation and food services industry added 241,400 jobs. in April of last year. The leisure and hospitality sectors have experienced the fastest growth in employment over the past month, and economists at the Economic Policy Institute have warned of the negative economic consequences of cutbacks in employee benefits. unemployment insurance in the event of a pandemic. Restaurant industry workers say all of the problems the industry has in hiring enough workers are the result of low wages, safety concerns and harassment from customers because of Covid-19 protocols According to a report released by One Fair Wage and the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center in May 2021, 53% of workers in the food service industry have considered quitting their jobs since the start of the pandemic, low wages and tips, safety concerns and harassment of customers being the main reasons given by workers. Workers in the restaurant industry were among the highest sectors of workers who died from the coronavirus during the pandemic, according to a study from the University of California at San Francisco released in January. Crystal Maher, a bartender at Parkside Projects in Austin, sees the blame of unemployment benefits on restaurant hiring difficulties as an excuse to try to avoid changing the way workers are treated in the industry. “What are we going to come back to? I don’t have my schedule until Friday of the previous week, so I can’t plan anything anymore. I can’t get any stability on my income anymore because I’m based on this tip system, ”Maher said. “The old restaurant mentality is gone and a lot of bosses don’t understand that yet. It has to change. Until we see that change, people are unlikely to come back to the industry in droves. Workers in the fast food industry in particular have criticized low wages, safety concerns, understaffing and harassment throughout the pandemic, as the annual employee turnover rate in the industry was above 100% before Covid-19. “We are understaffed no matter what the recruiting,” said Allen Strickland, team leader at Arby’s in Kansas City, who earns $ 11.50 an hour. “The pay is really not worth it, but I have to make it happen for me and my family.” Cris Cardona, a crew chief at an Orlando McDonald’s, is one of many workers in the fast food chain in at least 15 U.S. cities who will participate in a one-day strike on May 19 to demand the company to raise its minimum wage to $ 15 an hour. Cardona has worked at McDonald’s for four years and earns just over $ 11 an hour, which he says has kept him from leaving his parents’ house, having his own car or going to school. ‘university. “They call us essential, but the reality is they treat us like we are disposable,” Cardona said. “They like to say that nobody wants to work, that they have a hard time finding workers and that they blame it on unemployment benefits, but the problem is that nobody wants to work for poverty wages, risk their life. for $ 7.25 an hour. . “

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