The US Workforce Created it’s Own Problem

There is a labor shortage in America. This shortage is particularly prevalent in the service industry. Since businesses reopened from COVID lockdowns American workers have not rushed back to work in restaurants and retail establishments. I don’t care and I have no sympathy for the service sector.

I’ve had many service industry jobs. I know how they operate and why they are having problems. The service industry is racist, sexist, ageist and selfish. They see their team members as expendable unless they are young and White. A young, White person in an entry level job will be seen as someone who can be promoted and someone worth an investment from the company. Young, White, particularly male people are valued in the service sector. That’s who they want to have in front of customers and placed in leadership positions.

If you’re not young and White you are a grunt to the service sector. You are there to give lunch breaks, and give managers time off. You’re there to do work that managers don’t want to do when they don’t want to work. It doesn’t matter how long you work for an organization.

I’ve had jobs where a young Black man with tattoos and dreadlocks works in the stock room for years and is very knowledgeable about the store. The same can be said for middle aged women (often minorities) who perform well in a sales floor position for a matter of time yet are never invested in or promoted to higher paying, leadership positions if they apply. The service industry is rife with age discrimination and will find a reason to fire older workers. I suspect it has to do with health insurance payments.

Restaurants favor undocumented workers for back of the house positions. I assume they are able to hire and retain them for less. However, undocumented workers are often a transient population. Their roots are in a different country, not the US. They often move about the US from city to city. Undocumented workers can easily leave behind a job and burn bridges. It’s a lot easier for them to go elsewhere and even change their identity if needed. But that’s who the restaurant business preferred to hire. I bet many of them went home during the pandemic lock downs.

Most service industry jobs go by the mantra “We are going to do what’s best for the business” which translates to, to hell with you we are going to do what’s best for us. If you can’t meet our expectations we will find someone who will. If a retail or restaurant employee has to take time off from work their manager doesn’t make any effort to accommodate them. They will simply write them off the schedule and fill their hours with other team members or new applicants.

The service industry doesn’t hire most of it’s employees full time so they are able to hold hours over team members heads. Retail managers don’t make it known but employees are in a contest for hours. Employees that do things like open the most credit cards, sign up the most customers for the company loyalty program etc. are given more hours and therefore make more money.

A person can have a job at a department store and work thirty hours a week consistently over a period of time. If management hires someone new they can give the new person the hours simply because they fit the image that the company wants to project, i.e. young, White. This translates into the first employee losing money that they obviously need in order to make a living.

The working conditions of the service industry are terrible. Service industry jobs require working nights, weekends and holidays. Typically, a service industry employee will be on their feet several hours a day walking across concrete floors. They also have to deal with a lot of different people from managers, to co workers and customers. Dealing with so many different people is exhausting. To top it all off the wages are low. All of these conditions take a negative toll on a person over time.

The service industry has never been glamorous but thanks to social media we now see exactly what people think of service industry employees. I’ve seen on line discussion about how service industry jobs are kid jobs and people that work in them that are older than eighteen are just stupid. During the pandemic numerous videos circulated the internet of restaurant and retail workers being treated horribly by customers. Besides rudeness some service industry jobs like working at gas stations are some of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

The COVID lock downs were a blessing to many. It put the world on pause and gave people a moment to think. A pause or separation can be a great thing. It gives you time to reassess things. I believe service industry workers were use to their grind and went along with their lives with a degree of contentment. Once ties were severed with that industry they realized how nice it was to not have people in their face all the time and they had no desire to return to that environment.

The service industry has competition that it didn’t have in years past. People can start an on line business or place a service such as gardening or tutoring on Craigslist in order to make money. The service industry has failed to realize this and they failed to compete for talent. They took for granted that they would always have a plethora of applicants to burn through.

This is a case of having little to no respect or appreciation for the people that were willing to work with you. It’s fun to watch the service sector unable to cope without the people that treated as disposable. Besides that COVID took the lives of a lot of people in the service industry. Some of their former employees may have died or have lingering health problems from Coronavirus which makes them unable to return to work.

Big business has been threatening American workers for years with automation. I think now would be a great time for them to implement their robot workforce. That will be good for another laugh. I’m sure they’ll find that humans are easier and cheaper to work with even with wage increases. Good luck with all the software upgrades and system shut downs.

This is what happens when you are rigid, greedy and disrespectful towards people that helped build your business and industry. The labor shortage is being blamed on unemployment insurance by politicians. Even if that is true unemployment benefits shouldn’t pay more than a paycheck. The US workforce created this problem with it’s poor business practices.

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