May 14, 2021

Lobbying group calls on Gov. Edwards to end federal unemployment boost as workers hold out for culture change

Lobbying group calls on Gov. Edwards to end federal unemployment boost as workers hold out for culture change


“The bottom line is small businesses are competing with government for workers because of the extra benefits,” said Dawn McVea.

NEW ORLEANS — Before going on unemployment for the first time in her life last March, Sue Watson said she worked 50 years in the restaurant industry, almost exclusively as a server. Watson said her last job paid $2.13/hour plus tips, but no benefits.

“You’re just not the server, you’re the janitor, you’re the garbage man, you’re the busboy, you’re the food runner, you do all the jobs in the restaurant, you’re paid $2.13 an hour to do all of this,” Watson said.

Watson is now in her 60’s and said her serving days are done. Despite the recent amount of media attention thrown on the enhanced unemployment benefits from the federal government, Watson says her previous pay is not the primary reason for her refusal to go back.

“I’m not making as much money as if I was working. I’m not lazy. I’m just tired of the industry. It’s used and abused servers for so long that I just don’t want to go back to it,” Watson said.

“The bottom line is small businesses are competing with government for workers because of the extra benefits,” Dawn McVea, Louisiana’s director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said.

McVea said it’s clear those enhanced benefits from the federal government are enticing people not to work. The lobbying group represents 3,800 businesses in the state and it said many are now offering more pay, signing bonuses and benefits.

“Thirty-one percent of owners are telling us that they’re paying higher wages now than they were last year, before the pandemic and another 20% of owners are telling us that they plan to increase wages in the next three months,” she said.

McVea said Louisiana should follow the lead of 15 other states and stop accepting the federal bump in unemployment benefits. As the economy rebounds, she says businesses are desperate for staff.

“I’ve had restaurant owners across the state tell me they could hire 30 to 50 people right now,” McVea said.

A spokesperson for Governor John Bel Edwards said this week they’ve heard no conversations about ending the enhanced unemployment benefits here in Louisiana. Traditionally, if businesses have to pay workers more, that cost is usually passed on to through its product or service. 

We’re already seeing various price increases from the pandemic. Depending on how this labor shortage plays out, we may see more.

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