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Labor Pains

Joe Kesler, 2:01 pm ET

I ALMOST MADE a waitress cry yesterday. It isn’t what you think. I didn’t yell at her for poor service. Quite the contrary.

My wife and I went out for lunch at an Irish pub. I noticed the help wanted ad on the front door as we went inside. When it came time to pay our bill, I simply shared my heartfelt appreciation that she was willing to work and serve us in the midst of the current labor shortage.

She teared up and told us how hard it is to offer good service when they’re short-staffed. I was so moved by her emotional reaction that I gave her a 30% tip. That’s a big deal for a frugal guy like me.

I spent 40 years in banking working with Main Street businesses, but I’ve never seen anything like the current labor situation. And it isn’t just anecdotal evidence. We’ve set new records for job openings in each of the past three months.

Labor shortages are disrupting everything. Banks are closing branches. New businesses are delaying opening. Restaurants are running at half-staff. Hospitals are losing nurses. In fact, nurses willing to travel are making more than $3,000 a week as contract laborers. It’s a mess.

What should we do? I think about my dad and how he joined the army in the Second World War to fight fascism. He was a member of the Greatest Generation—a moniker they earned with their selfless giving. Perhaps we need some of that attitude for a time like this. Instead of asking how quickly we can retire, maybe we should ask how we can help even more. As we find our wait times growing, maybe we’ll once again view work not as a burden, but as a way to be of service to others.

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Rick Connor
Rick Connor
2 months ago

Joe, thanks for this piece. I’ve always felt it was good for seniors to retire and let the next generation take its turn. But now that I’m in (semi)-retirement I think about how to make a contribution to my community. Good food for thought.

Joe Kesler
Joe Kesler
2 months ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

Thanks Rick. The problem just got reinforced for me. I had three rooms in a lodge reserved for some family vacation next month in Glacier National Park and we got an email saying they were canceling our reservation because they don’t have enough workers. Guess we all need to see how we can help.

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