The labor shortage weighs on July 4th dinner plans as some Massachusetts companies choose to close for the holidays and employers say they don’t have the staff to open.
For the first time in more than 70 years, the owner of Lindsey’s family restaurant in East Wareham closes because of a lack of workers. They work with about half the staff they normally have for the busy season.
“I’ve been through so much in 40 years with this restaurant, so many things that I thought would have brought me to my knees, but that’s the worst,” said owner Cheri Lindsey.
Lindsey said she decided to close for the holidays because she doesn’t want to miss out on service and disappoint her customers. The restaurant is only open five instead of the usual seven days a week due to the shortage, which she attributes in part to unemployment benefits.
“There just aren’t enough people to work. They just say, ‘I don’t work,'” said Lindsey.
Enforcing mask requirements on top of the stress of being “essential” has resulted in many retail workers quitting after a tough, busy year, says Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter.
The shortage affects the entire supply chain. The restaurant’s chef said he was waiting days for deliveries from vendors due to the lack of drivers. As a result, he had to temporarily remove items from the menu.
“It’s like walking across a cardboard floor and wondering if today is the day I’ll fail?” Chef David Veronneau said.
The restaurant is one of many businesses struggling to get through the bank holiday weekend, which is historically one of the most profitable days of the year. The Gateway Tavern will be closed for one week from July 4th. One employee said over the phone that part of this is to give their workers a break during the labor shortage.
The Massachusetts Food Association, which represents the food industry, also sees the negative effects of the scarcity. They recently wrote a letter to Governor Charlie Baker asking him to consider paying people to go back to work, which New Hampshire is already doing.
“Once their operation was complete, they had more applications than in the last year and a half, which is proof that it works,” said Brian Houghton, the group’s senior vice president of government affairs and communications.
In one month, unemployed New Hampshire residents will no longer have access to the additional $ 300 a week in federal funding. Instead, they get a re-entry bonus after they find a new job.
Many companies have started offering their own incentives, including signing and referral bonuses, to try to get workers on the door.
“I really think that will pass too, but it just has to be something that people deal with that they have never dealt with before,” Lindsey said. “It’s going to be a tough summer.”