By Ed Barbeau

In her column on minimum-wage, part-time workers, Janet Stevens only tells half of the story.

I wish some of us in the restaurant business had been given a chance to explain some of this.

In a very simplistic way, she adds up what a part-time food service worker would make at 30 hours a week and tells us how problematic it would be to live comfortably on that.

She also makes the case that employees simply cannot find better paying jobs with more hours, thus living under the poverty line accepting only part-time work.

This is simply not true. As a restaurant owner I have a different viewpoint, one made by personal experience in this industry.

Addressing the case that most workers cannot find higher paying jobs because of a lack of qualifications, or that it’s cost effective to keep hours down is not stating the reality here in Bend.

Cash & Carry, for example, pays well over minimum plus benefits and is chronically understaffed.

Many businesses in Bend are dying to hire but can’t find even the most inexperienced that can make it to work every day!

I know several employers, all seeking little or no experienced personnel paying well above minimum, and can’t hire enough, even though they are willing to teach them a career-type job.

They are dying to hire, as are virtually all of the construction-related companies. Many owners I talk to would hire and train. Many small business owners themselves are working huge hours because they can’t staff adequately. We are willing to do this even though we lose money on these personnel initially.

But that brings me to my next point. They won’t stay long enough to be an asset after training, if they get that far.

My belief is that society has not prepared these people to even hold down a minimum-wage type job.

Most could care less if they lose their job. Recently I had a new hire demand 11 days off she wanted over the next two months, which she gave me at the end of her first shift! Since she hired in for weekend shifts, I would then have a patchwork of weekends to fill with another part-timer. I declined and she quit. Many workers think nothing of taking several vacations over the short busy summer.

So are wages the problem? If I have a wait staff that make well over $25 per hour including tips, why are there few out there applying? Think about how many jobs in Bend are in that range?. Most Bend restaurant owners would agree; they see that their staffs are not full.

If I did use only full-time employees, what happens when they leave or give no real warning about days off? What do I do then?

Stevens is right in the fact that there are government programs and these employees use them.

They no longer have to work to feed themselves, go further in life, only working enough to get by. I see this every day.

I talk to my employees, try to get them motivated. I try to set them up to succeed, try to get them on a path that leads to better things. I give in to endless demands of time off for the most trivial of reasons. Most aren’t listening.

Nope, I see this as a lack of desire on society’s part to teach a strong work ethic, make them accountable and self reliant.

We’ve coddled them and taught them that the employers are the problem, not themselves. If they fail, it’s someone else’s fault, not their own.

I am paying more than minimum. I would do more if I could afford it. I’ve been there. I came back because I love it. Everything but this.

Like I said, we only hear half the story sometimes.

— Ed Barbeau lives in Bend.

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