Westside Marketplace pulls jobs from local fast food restaurants

Sudatta Hor, Staff Writer

With the recent openings of popular stores like Menards and T.J. Maxx, there have been more “Now Hiring” signs in town. A possible explanation is as follows. Because of the higher wages and better business at the Westside Marketplace, many good fast-food employees quit their jobs to work at stores like Menards or T.J. Maxx. This creates a loss of employees at fast food restaurants, which is why they are looking for more employees. Jeremy Haberman, the business education teacher here at RHS, can offer further insight to this matter.

“By the basics of supply and demand, when you lower the supply, the demand goes up – that being labor as the supply. A lot of those jobs [at the Westside Marketplace] are in that ten to twelve dollar per hour range, which I would imagine hurts employers that hires unskilled labor, which is basically all restaurants,” says Haberman.

It is not the fact that businesses are unable to find employees, but that they are unable to find competent employees. Don Luna is a math teacher here at RHS, but during the summer, he runs a snow cone business and runs a firework tent. He knows what it’s like to find employees.

“The new stores are still looking for workers too. I think it’s a lack of motivation to work. I try to get students to help me, in the summertime, work at the firework tent and things like that. It’s so hard to find people to do it, because they don’t want to work,” Luna says, “The ones who will want to work will want to be paid for their time and go to those higher paying jobs.”

There are other factors other than being unmotivated that makes a bad employee. Unfortunately, there are a lot of potential job applicants who are unable to work because they are not drug free.

“I have a lot of friends that work at Lowe’s. They are basically looking at the same pool of people – they are looking to hire the same people that Menards are looking to hire. They tell me that they have a very hard time of people passing a drug. My friend [from Lowe’s] tells me that if I get ten applicants, I will be lucky if three pass a drug test,” says Haberman.

Aside from the incompetent workers, there are many hardworking, straight employees. With the plans for minimum wages and the addition of many large corporate businesses in Rolla, those good employees who work at fast food restaurants may counter-intuitively get the short end of the stick. Currently, Missouri is on a plan for the minimum wage to raise to twelve dollars per hour by the end of 2023, but that does not necessarily mean that everybody gets a raise when that happens.

“I think the biggest impact is everybody hearing about the raise of minimum wage. So everybody is trying to stay on board trying to pay the twelve dollar minimum wage. All the big corporations can do that. Locally, it’s very difficult to afford the twelve dollar amount,” says Luna. “I think what causes businesses to lose good employees was that when everyone went to ten bucks an hour, because of the marketplace, everyone that had been there long term didn’t get a raise. That makes all the good workers upset.”

So the committed workers are undervalued and employers are having trouble finding more committed workers. This may cause good employees to quit their jobs for a better one, which leads to more pressure for the business owner. This pressure may cause business to go out of business. Luna agrees with this hypothesis.

“To be able to pay for the employees, you have to increase prices. If you increase prices, then that keeps people from coming and buying from you. You’re not going to be able to bring home as much money because you have to pay out in wages. It’s the stress on the business owner that makes you want to just quit,” says Luna.

On the other hand, Haberman claims that no business will close due to a lack of workers. In fact, he claims that these are signs of good growth economically.

“If I’m looking for a job, what do I want to see? A million ‘Now Hiring’ signs. In every way, that indicates strong economic growth. That’s a good thing. The more of that you see, the more likely that wages are going to rise,” Haberman says, “None of these businesses are closing because the phone is not ringing, or nobody’s coming in to buy their product. No business sits around thinking, ‘ Boy, I just got too many customers!’ If you have a staffing problem, you just need to manage better.”