Workers Shortage in Austin

Restaurants and stores that Austinites used to frequent are now closing down because of one thing: a shortage in workers. With fewer and fewer people wanting to work in today’s financial climate, many Austin businesses are struggling to stay afloat.

 One of the main reasons people are choosing not to work in restaurants, retail, or grocery is because the minimum wage is not livable. 

Michael Garcia Mendoza, a prepared foods cook at Whole Foods had this to say, “I get paid 15 dollars an hour, and living in Austin it is barely enough to survive.”

To combat this, many places have started to raise their minimum and starting wages, in the hopes of bringing in more workers. Many places have raised their starting wages as much as five dollars. 

But despite the raise in wages, Austin is still facing one of the biggest workers shortages in recent years. 

So what more can businesses do to bring in more workers? All current and former workers of these businesses can agree on one thing, make the minimum wage liveable. 

Bri Palacios, a general manager at HEB, explained that she didn’t think the workers at her establishment were paid enough. 

“We pay our workers 14.50 an hour to start, but that’s definitely not enough to be liveable. If you were relying on income from just this job to live in Austin, I don’t think you could do that.” 

According to a report done by KUT 90.5, you would have to work 152 hours a week to be able to afford a two bedroom apartment in Austin. The current minimum wage in Austin is 7.25$, but according to this report Austinities would need to earn 27.58$ an hour to live in a fair market. 

So despite businesses efforts to raise wages, they are not raising them high enough to be liveable. 

Anna Cady is a cashier and food runner at Milt’s Pit BBQ, she said she will often get paid under the table to pick up extra shifts. Cady explained that with the flat rate of 7.25 plus tips she would be afraid to have to live on the wages she makes.

“I’m very fortunate to have parents who can help support me financially. If I had to live off of what I was making at Milt’s I’d be homeless, no question. You can’t live on 7.25 an hour.”

Another factor that is contributing to the workers shortage is the overworking of the remaining employees. 

Michael Garcia Mendoza explained that he has been called in multiple times to cover a shift that no one else could. Mendoza said he gets a call to come in on a day he’s not working at least once a week.

“I have been called in sometimes due to the workers shortage. I went in once and decided I’d never do it again, it’s not my responsibility to cover someone else’s shift.”

A lot of workers feel similar to Mendoza, they are feeling taken advantage of and under appreciated. The main problem is that people higher up the ladder seem to think their workers are expendable, when clearly they’re not.

Anna Cady had a similar story to Mendoza. Cady said she gets called in to work often and feels like she has to come in.

“I get called in to work shifts I’m not scheduled for all the time. It’s hard to say no, they make you feel like that’s not an option by just saying “I need you to come in today”.”

Cady also said her job is very hard for her to do. “It’s a very physically demanding job. You’re constantly carrying heavy items and you’re on your feet for most of the day. I don’t feel like my pay reflects the work I do all day.”

When these establishments do find more workers they rarely stay for long.

“I’ve had people come in to start a job and they’re gone within two weeks. Some will stay longer but not by much, maybe around six weeks before they’re gone too.”

Bri Palacios explained how hard it is to get workers to stay after they’re hired. Palacios said she doesn’t know why they run through workers so quickly. 

“Maybe it’s because of the pay but our starting wages are better than most places. I wish I could ask them why but they’ll be gone before I even knew they were thinking about leaving.”

Managers and higher ups seem to not be able to see the workers struggle as clearly as they do. If there isn’t a shift in the way higher ups treat their workers, then this workers shortage may be permanent.

A pay raise isn’t enough for some. Being treated as expendable and disrespected in the workplace is proving to be an issue on the same level as payment.

So will the workers shortage in Texas be over soon? It’s hard to tell. But one thing is for sure, there needs to be a change in the way workers are treated.

Data Visualization

Population Per City

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Number of people on Unemployment Per City.

Minimum wage vs Liveable Wage

Work Hours Needed to Make Minimum Wage Liveable

Rent Per City

Photo Essay

Anna Cady is a cashier and food runner at Milts Pit BBQ. A typical shift for her starts with stocking the product shelfs.
Anna Cady is pictured organizing and taking inventory of the restaurants products. Cady will usually do this at the start of her shift, and it can take her anywhere between thirty minutes to an hour to complete it.
Anna Cady is pictured here washing dishes from the previous shift. After Cady has finished taking inventory, she begins to wash dishes left over from the previous shift.
Cady explained that because they are so short staffed they often don’t have anyone to wash dishes. This task will then fall on whoever has free time during their shift, which is a rare occurrence at the fast paced BBQ spot.
Cady explained that she will often end up washing dishes on top of the other work she has to complete each shift. She stated that washing dishes isn’t even part of her job but someone has to do it.
Anna Cady is pictured sweeping the stock room walkway. After Cady finishes doing the dishes she begins to sweep the back area and walkway.
Cady explained that sometimes the workers from the last shift won’t sweep when they leave, leaving her to clean up their mess. She then explained that she doesn’t have to clean until they close but sometimes it’s so dirty she feels obligated to do it beforehand.
Anna Cady is pictured bagging a togo order with her manager Francisco Garcia. After Cady has completed all of her work in the stock room, she then begins to do what he job description entails, serving customers.
Anna Cady is pictured delivering an order to a waiting customer. Cady said she is typically on her feet for most of her shift, and ends up doing a lot more than she should because there are very few workers on staff.
Anna Cady explained that she sometimes gets frustrated with her job because of the shortage in workers. Cady said she often ends up doing more work than she should and staying for longer hours because there’s no one else who can do it.

Audio Story

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