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BARTENDER AT WORK BY KATE MILLET VIA FLICKR.COM

I am so tired of people blaming the service industry being understaffed on unemployment compensation. It’s true in a way, but not in the way people think. Before I explain why, let me give you some insight.

KHRISTINA PRESTON

The service industry is one of the hardest to work for, but also one of the hardest to leave. When someone chooses to work as a server or a bartender, they are agreeing to give up every night, every weekend, and every holiday to take care of other people.

The hours are long and grueling. There are no breaks.

Many work doubles, which include working both the lunch shift and the dinner shift, with no break in between. This can mean 12-plus hours with no break. And the money is at the mercy of the people. But it’s cash in hand every day. And that’s something that gets hard to leave.

If someone in the service tries to leave for a “normal” job, they are leaving a position that doesn’t come with a final paycheck. They leave with the money they made their last day.

Most “normal” jobs pay either weekly or biweekly. Meaning they are waiting at least two weeks or up to three weeks for their first paycheck. That’s very hard to do if someone makes just enough to cover bills and daily expenses.

This is where unemployment compensation comes into play.

Last year, the service industry came to a grinding halt. Everything shut down. This left tens of thousands of people with no idea where their bill money was going to come from.

I can tell you that I was one of the lucky ones who actually got unemployment benefits, only because I spent four-plus hours a day on the website for a month straight before I ever saw a dime. Most people gave up. The shutdown forced them to find employment elsewhere. A lot of people left the service industry.

And they aren’t coming back.

They now are working places that give them evenings, weekends and holidays off. They are making steady, reliable paychecks. They have breaks and lunches. There is no desire to come back to this.

So in a way yes, the service industry understaffing can be blamed on unemployment. Not because people are staying home, but because unemployment was so broken, people were finally able to leave and they aren’t coming back.

— Preston grew up in Lake Helen and is currently a resident of Brooksville. She is a bartender with 20 years in the service industry, including bar-management experience.

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