I’ve been managing an industrial staffing agency for several years now, and it’s been a real experience navigating recruiting through a pandemic in Austin, Texas. Every decision has to be tortured and confused – stay home/don’t stay home, mask/don’t mask, vaccinate, don’t vaccinate. We have city leaders demanding one thing, state leaders another. It’s no wonder everyone is anxious.
For me, though, it’s been interesting as well. Probably for the first time in my life, I’ve seen the market flip over, favoring employees over companies. I’ve loved seeing which companies smoothly transition into paying employees better, relax their many strictures (clean background checks, x number of years’ experience, etc.), and keep on keeping on.
I’ve also watched which companies double down, feeling like their underpaid, laid off, overworked employees owe it to them to return to work, despite the risk to their lives or their families lives, for the same amount of money, and without wearing masks because of management’s political affiliations. These same company leaders, of course, also refuse to acknowledge how the company laid everyone off, without pay, without notice, and without mercy within minutes of the close down. Somehow, in their own estimations, they were justified in their response, but their prior employees are not in their reactions to it.
I’ve cringed seeing which companies offer tiny raises, but add on extra things they expect in return for that insultingly low amount of money – willing to work weekends; work split shifts, have more experience, etc.; thus proving they aren’t reading what’s really happening right now correctly.
Then you have the workers. It is supremely narrowminded to assume that everyone existing under the poverty line is a bunch of lazy people asking for a handout. What’s really going on is that, with the stimulus packages, the unemployment bump gave employees earning under $15/hour for a full-time job, an increase to what they were previously taking home before the pandemic. When you add in that people weren’t having to pay for gas to get to work, or for day care, or for school lunches, etc., people who normally had to scrimp and scratch to eek out a decent existence suddenly had enough money to pay their bills, while spending more time with their families, less time worrying about how they were going to buy food or pay the rent. They got a glimpse of how life could be, and with the governor here in Texas all but demanding they return to work immediately, they also got to see clearly, they are more essential to our economy than even the wealthiest rich person.
I’ve never actually seen very many instances where a potential employee held more cards than the company wanting to hire them, but here we are. Welcome to the Hunger Games of Employment in Texas, where unskilled labor is weighing in at no less than $15/hour and even unexperienced CDL drivers are starting at $25+/hour.