The “Labor Shortage” Is Actually This

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Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

As America finally reawakens from a two-year pandemic slumber, employers continue to face an unforeseen hurdle: labor shortages.

Just take a look at some of the headlines from this year:

Some people have chalked it up to the pandemic. Others to laziness.

Who wants to work when Uncle Sam keeps handing out stimmies?

Am I right?

Left with no options, employers have been pulling out all the stops to woo workers back.

Chipotle, in its magnanimity, raised wages to $15 per hour. Others offered sign-on bonuses.

But that still hasn’t been enough. And employers are modifying operations to make do with fewer workers.

Understaffed fast food joints are moving to drive-thru only. Meanwhile, Amazon is now looking to onboard robots for its warehouses.

It seems paradoxical to talk about labor shortages as a massive economic downturn is on the horizon. Yet a shortage of hourly workers persists.

Why is that?

Much of the conversation has been about wages and the cost of living. While important, that isn’t the only issue.

Which means raising wages might not be the best solution.

There’s as much a shortage of quality employers as there is a shortage of the remuneration needed to be in one’s employ in the first place…

Indulge me for a moment as I share with you my recent experience applying for a job.

By the end, I think you’ll be as skeptical of the “labor shortage” as I am.

There’s a Facebook Group I’m part of that shares food and beverage job openings in my neck of the woods. I joined to keep an eye out for any gigs that might pop up.

Because self-employed writer + recession = no bueno.

A month ago I saw a posting for a part-time job at a local bakery.

Getting paid upwards of $30 an hour to make donuts a couple of days a week doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Curious, I sent an email with my resume to the general manager.

The email I sent was pretty straightforward. I wanted to learn more about the role but I did note I had a minor conflict.

For two weeks in November, I was scheduled to dogsit in a neighboring town. Making a 4 am start time wouldn’t be possible.

I assumed they would be willing to work with me on a late start because #laborshortage.

Besides, it’s not like there are a lot of people chomping at the bit to work that early in the morning anyway.

Boy was I wrong…

In mentioning my conflict and asking for two weeks of flexibility I made a fatal miscalculation.

You see, I also assumed there were multiple shifts they were looking to fill.

If you’ve worked at a coffee shop or bakery you know there are different shifts. You have your openers who, well open the cafe. And you have mid shifts.

Usually, the mid shift comes in a couple of hours after opening to provide support during peak hours. Some mid shifts help transition during the day. Others come in toward the end to help close the store.

The majority of food industry jobs I’ve worked in the past have had this kind of staggered schedule. It wasn’t unreasonable for me to expect the same for this location too.

When I sent my initial email inquiring about a job I was essentially telling them I could only work mid shift for the two weeks I had to dogsit.

So you can understand why I was a bit miffed by the manager’s response. I didn’t think I was asking for much.

I decided to send a follow-up with a screenshot of the original Facebook post to confirm the shift hours.

The next day the manager responded:

Those are approximate hours that is how long it takes a new someone to clean and get out of here.

I’m going to assume you’re like me. You’re college educated. You spend the bulk of your day in front of a computer screen.

Can you imagine being asked to spend 11 hours sitting at your computer?

No?

So I’ll wager you can’t imagine working an 11 hour shift baking donuts either.

This, my friend, is why we have a labor shortage.

For the record, I’m not here to besmirch this donut shop. Or the manager’s poor communication skills for that matter.

I’m sharing this to highlight the unspoken problem plaguing America’s hourly labor force.

There isn’t a shortage of workers willing to work.

Nor is there a plague of laziness gripping our country.

There’s a shortage of people willing to continue tolerating this kind of bullshit.

Just because you’re not in the hourly labor force (i.e. working retail, fast food, or similar gigs) doesn’t mean this isn’t happening.

You’ve just been blissfully unaware of it every time you dine out or swing by the store on your way home from work.

Whether it’s Starbucks’ infamous clopening policy or being expected to work an 11-hour shift at a local donut shop, workers are D-O-N-E.

They aren’t just tired of working for a slave wage.

They’re tired of being treated like economic slaves too.

Honestly, can you blame them?

Amanda Claypool is a 3x 9to5 dropout, 2x car dweller, and 1x inquisitive human being. She writes about money and crypto at Millionaire by Next Year and is on a quest to figure out how to live a good life over at The Unconsumer.