Remember 2020? That was, among other things, the year of the heroic retail and restaurant worker/owner, braving a very uncomfortable period of uncertainty and stress from both panicked consumers, the closure of dine-in services in numerous communities, and facing a virus whose true virulence and death- and long-term-complication-causing impacts are still being discovered even midway into 2021.
Well, as things wobble around precariously back to whatever new normal emerges, these workers have returned back to their typical status of not being thought of highly at all. Many politicians would have you believe they’re all just being lazy, getting fat while sucking up government handouts versus being a gainfully employed “good American.”
(FWIW, $300/week unemployment checks over one year is $15,600; full-time minimum wage in Ohio gets you nearly $3K more than that. And neither amount will get the average adult even a bare-bones living in Ohio or pretty much any state in the Union…but I digress.)
People are back to being more enthralled by someone like Richard Branson, who recently rode a wave of enthusiasm with his recent trek to the edge of space. In spite of his proclamation that his mission was “to turn the dream of space travel into a reality – for my grandchildren, for your grandchildren, for everyone,” the reality is these flights are almost exclusively going to be the realm of the well-heeled/well-connected for now.
And whether you take the optimistic view of Ars Technica or the dour view of The Atlantic, the reality is those with the money and/or fame will be deemed the heroes, not the everyday worker. Even in places like the former Communist Soviet Union, folks like Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin got the parades, not the local corner store clerk in Moscow who handled shitty customers with grace and aplomb for years on end.
Many retail and hospitality businesses are looking for workers to come back to the fold, but despite politicians’ claims, I believe there aren’t as many available to go back. Many have simply moved on to new jobs – colleges like Columbus State had grants for individuals to learn new skills, and many took them up on it. The rise of remote teleconferencing and similar has generated a whole new field of jobs which unemployed people filled. A few hearty souls have even ventured out and went into business for themselves during this period. More tragically, some former retail and restaurant workers have died or have acquired long-term complications from a bout with COVID, or are dealing with similar circumstances with a family member in their care.
Some are finding challenges to getting back to the working world, especially families with children who were challenged by schools going to remote learning or the shrinking of child care options.
And even those folks who are riding unemployment benefits until they are forced back into the workforce – can you really blame them for doing so? Is minimum wage and almost certainly lack of benefits worth the passive/aggressive (or in some cases, just darn aggressive) attitude people who were against masking regulations and/or vehemently anti-vaccination? Or worth wading back again into the COVID-19 muck, now driven mostly by the more contagious Delta variant (even many Republicans, with wide speculation about the reasons why, have done a complete 180 in regard to encouraging vaccinations.)
Amidst this, another group of people came up in my mind recently, a group which has had trouble even obtaining a chance for gainful employment in better times in order to better their life circumstances.Continue reading “Here Comes The Shun”