People beating up kitchen utensils during the nightly “clap for we care” cheers for medical staff and key workers during the coronavirus pandemic in New York City on May 23, 2020.
Alexi Rosenfeld | Getty Images
In the spring every evening at 7 p.m. there was cheering, clapping and clattering pots and pans in the cities. in a thank you for important employees.
The label described not only doctors and nurses caring for Covid-19 patients, but also the multitude of low-wage workers – from restaurant dishwashers to grocery store cashiers – who provided much-needed services to the economy during the economic period Coronavirus pandemic.
Gratitude to essential workers also extended to new guidelines for paid sick leave for hourly workers in the early days of the lockdown as the majority of American employees worked from home. Some hourly workers also received salary increases or quarterly bonuses.
“I think all of this has done a lot of great symbolic work to shed positive light on this all-too-often invisible workforce,” said Eli Wilson, assistant professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. “At the same time, I think that as sociologists who focus on work, we are still not entirely clear whether this will mean a significant change for these workers.”
As the nightly ritual of gossiping wore off for these workers, some feelings about low-wage workers also disappeared, although the crisis drew attention to their working conditions and pay.
Take the realization that some of those who have been unemployed by the crisis have been earn more from unemployment insurance than they did at their old jobs.
Salaries are expected to fluctuate over the next year. For some, temporary salary increases have expired. For example in May Starbucks expire his Disaster money for employees when it reopened its cafes, and Kroger stopped paying his workers an additional $ 2 an hour. Employers looking to rebuild their workforce may need to raise wages and sweeten benefits to compete with more lucrative salaries in e-commerce warehouses.
For the low-wage workers who kept their jobs in 2020, the new safety concerns and challenges have not gone away. MC Donalds Workers sued the fast food giant not supposed to be adequately protected. A target Customer who refused to wear a mask hit an employee. In November, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union announced that more than 17,400 food workers had been exposed to the virus 109 died after contracting Covid. As infections rise rapidly, that number is certain to increase.
Workers who get sick may not be able to take paid time off. After December 31, employers with fewer than 500 employees are no longer obliged under federal law to take paid sick leave or family leave in an emergency. The Covid Relief Bill passed by Congress As of late Monday, those provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act were not renewed.
A fair wage campaigning for an end to the minimum wage asked 1,675 restaurant workers about their experiences with the pandemic. Eighty-three percent reported a decrease in their tips, with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying their tips were cut by at least half. The survey also found that the majority of respondents exhibited hostile behavior when enforcing Covid precautions such as wearing a mask.
“As someone who worked as a waiter for six or seven years, I lost my sleep and thought about the change in the landscape of what it means to work in restaurants – not just in terms of income, but overall Experience – literally changed completely overnight, “said Wilson.
For many restaurant workers, the changes included leave or dismissal. The unemployment rate for food and drink establishments rose by 35.4% in April. In November the rate had fallen to just 13.8%, but jobs were again being lost.
Another round of loans from the Payment Protection Plan was included in Covid’s $ 900 billion aid package, and this could help some restaurants stay afloat. But they’re also struggling with lower sales due to cold temperatures restricting outdoor dining, and more strict restrictions on indoor eating in some areas. For example, Los Angeles and New York City have banned eating indoors as infections have risen sharply in those cities.
Millions of other low-wage workers were also unemployed in the middle of a pandemic.
“Services that have been particularly hard hit, like food services and retail, have seen quite a dramatic decline in employment,” said Daniel Zhao, Senior Economist at Glassdoor. “As a result, 2020 was a tough year for many low-wage workers.”
The record-breaking unemployment rate from the pandemic unexpectedly disrupted a tight labor market. Last year the United States had the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. Low wage workers saw wages grow after years of relatively stagnant paychecks.
Starbucks shift supervisor Adan Miranda wears a face mask while serving a drink to a customer while standing behind a plexiglass sign in a cabin outside the store in Sacramento, Calif., On Thursday, May 21, 2020.
Rich Pedroncelli | AP
In late March, the federal government’s first stimulus package gave skilled workers an additional $ 600 weekly unemployment insurance. Employees with tips sometimes did not meet the minimum requirements for unemployment insurance, while undocumented workers were completely excluded from federal aid.
When that incentive expired in late July, the unemployment benefit replacement dropped to $ 300 a week, which was still a significant increase in average hourly earnings. Analysis by Snagajob, an hourly job recruitment platform, found that about 75% of hourly workers in the US were better off clinging to unemployment benefits than finding a new position when the federal allowance was $ 300 per week.
“At $ 600 a week, basically 100% of workers would be better off taking a check … It showed how little a large part of the economy lives from it,” said Mathieu Stevenson, CEO of Snagajob.
In the latest economic stimulus package, the US $ 300 unemployment supplement was replenished by mid-March.
Combined with safety concerns about the pandemic, this has created an unusual job market. Typically, hourly job seekers increase by at least 30% in a recession.
“Depending on the timeframe, at the beginning of the pandemic, we found that job seekers were down 40% year-over-year,” Stevenson said. “Even last month they were down 5% to 10% year over year.”
He added that some of the business leaders he spoke to, especially those in the restaurant industry, were surprised by the unexpectedly low supply of hourly workers.
“They just assumed they would be able to reinstate all of their workers on leave when they started reopening and that they would have a flood of great candidates,” he said. “They actually find the job market to be harder at least every hour than it was before the pandemic, which the numbers support.”
According to Snagajob, hourly jobs have increased by 15% compared to the prepandemic. The main difference, however, is where workers find work. Fast food jobs are still down 28% while full service restaurant positions have almost been cut in half.
Cooks or waiters in the restaurant industry switched from appearances delivering groceries in the early days of the lockdown to satisfying demand in grocery stores. Next up were jobs in e-commerce, where jobs more than tripled, with employees making a significant contribution to fulfilling orders in warehouses.
“If you take Amazon and Walmart, for example, which together have more than a quarter of a million employees this year, both starting wages are above $ 15, “said Stevenson.
Such a high starting wage puts pressure on the industries whose workers are migrating to work at the retail giants. After Starbucks gave its baristas a 10% raise said in early December The goal would be for all employees to earn more than $ 15 an hour within two to three years.
Snagajob predicts that the labor market will be similar to today in the first six months of 2021. As more Americans get vaccinated against the coronavirus and the stimulus package expires, more hourly workers will look for jobs. However, more hourly positions will also be available as capacity constraints are lifted and consumers feel more secure.
“It will still be a stronger job market than you would otherwise expect from a recession,” said Stevenson.
Zhao said it was entirely possible that the labor market in the second half of 2021 will be similar to that of 2019.
In addition to higher wages, companies could also try to attract better performing hourly workers. Paid sick leave has been trending as unemployment benefits in recent years, according to Zhao. A corporate survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 14% of establishments employing more than 35 million workers had increased their paid sick leave during the pandemic.
“Hopefully this trend will continue especially after the pandemic, which has made it clear to employers and society the importance of being on sick leave,” Zhao said.