Washington Post: These businesses found a way around the worker shortage: Raising wages to $15 an hour or more

By Eli Rosenberg
Washington Post, June 10, 2021

... Across the country, businesses in sectors such as food service and manufacturing that are trying to staff up have been reporting an obstacle to their success — a scarcity of workers interested in applying for low-wage positions. ...

The experience of 12 business operators interviewed by The Washington Post who raised their minimum wage in the last year points to another element of the equation: the central role that pay — specifically a $15-an-hour minimum starting wage — plays in attracting workers right now. ...

One of the business owners, Gina Schaefer, who runs A Few Cool Hardware Stores, which has 13 locations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia ... credited increasing wages at her stores to $15 an hour with helping her fill [120] positions since March.

“We’re having pretty good success,” she said. ...

Most business owners emphasized that money was just one component of creating an appealing work environment for prospective employees, after a brutal year in which workers in sectors such as retail and hospitality faced high levels of job loss, the constant threat of coronavirus infection and other stressors.

“It’s tough if you have a family crisis and you need to deal with that and you have an employer that says, ‘If you leave to deal with that, you’re fired,’” [the Midwest-based clothing and design store Raygun owner Mike] Draper said. His company has emphasized leniency for workers, in addition to policies such as guaranteed sick time and paid time off.

“We provide an environment where people don’t find themselves in that situation,” he said. “Work doesn’t have to be intractable.” ...

“There’s a shaming that’s happening to working-class people,” said Schaefer, the owner of the D.C.-area hardware stores. “Nobody talks about the fact that the economy is going to fall apart when a tech guy gets a $195,000-a-year salary with a 5 percent raise every year, or when lawyers are making $300,000. This conversation only happens when you’re talking about the people who make the lowest wages. And I think as a society, that’s just really insulting.”

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Copyright 2021 The Washington Post


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