Is Working Right Now Really Worth It?

By Jenna Shelton
jshelton@lc.edu

When I make my weekly pilgrimage to the world outside of my house to stock up on groceries or other essentials, I see help needed signs everywhere I look.

Since the state of Illinois is still on a mandated stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus, all the open positions are for companies or services that are considered an essential business or service. That includes positions in retail and food service, ranging from a grocery store or chain store that has everything under one roof to a fast food restaurant, even food delivery services. There are also services such as water, gas, electricity, cable or satellite that are considered essential, or absolutely necessary to survive.

Normally, these labor-type businesses have a high employee turnover rate, where there are cycles of hiring, quitting or firing and then hiring a new employee occurs over and over, that pay only minimum wage, and usually have no benefits of any kind offered. With the desperate need that coronavirus has caused to have enough staff to thoroughly sterilize, stock and serve customers, companies everywhere are offering paid sick leave, hazard pay and above minimum wage pay grades to entice temporary applicants while they are off from their normal jobs or school.

For some people, especially those that are young, or with previously low-incomes, less or no education, or families, the opportunity to make money while they can is tempting, especially since no one knows how long we’ll be living like this. The stay-at-home ban could be lifted at the end of April and the economy could re-open, or it could be extended for months; there is no way to know right now. The ability to still provide for their families and pay their bills, while possibly reaping benefits that they would not normally be offered, is a great comfort for people during the pandemic.

For others, these benefits are not worth the risk of catching and/or possibly spreading the infection to their family or friends. They may be working from home, or be blessed enough to have been working for a company that is still paying their employees while they are furloughed, or maybe they have enough saved to cover their expenses while they are on an unpaid furlough. Perhaps they are immune compromised or their loved ones are, as it is in my case, and are simply unwilling to take the chance that they could possibly acquire the virus, that could end with a fatality.

Either way, we depend on these businesses to stay open and the essential workers to make sure that we are able to get the food, gas and medicines we need. I have great respect and regard for the people all over the world, but especially in my community that are literally putting their own lives at risk to ensure that their communities are able to survive. Please remember, especially if you are at the store and are frustrated that they are out of stock of a particular item or moving slower than normal, they are doing their best with what they have and can do in such an uncertain time.

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