COVID-19 part three: Students as essential workers

With the recently announced “stay at home order”, many local businesses have been forced to shut down, leaving some with lack of hours or a job in whole. Some students that are more fortunate to work at an essential business give student workers a chance to make some money during the “stay at home order”. Although some students are allowed to continue working, almost nothing at their place of work has not been changed due to new coronavirus precautions suggested by management.
Most fast food places, considered essential, have been forced to close their lobby to prevent any type of real contact with customers. Senior Tony Lemus has been an employee at McDonald’s for over two years. He said that he has been fortunate enough to get more hours due to school being canceled, but not everyone is as lucky as him. Lemus explains that he has been fortunate enough to get more hours to work during the “stay at home order” while some of his co-workers are not as fortunate.
“It’s [coronavirus] has freed up my schedule since we don’t have school anymore so I’m able to work more hours. But there are less positions at McDonald’s to fill. So some workers are being cut hours.” Lemus said.
Sophomore Cynthia Torres who has been working at Prairy Market & Deli for almost one year explains her loss of hours.
“I used to work from 3:30-7 p.m., but now I only work 3:30-6 p.m., and our hours have changed and so it’s affecting me a little bit, but luckily I don’t need as many hours as other people do,” Torres said.
Similar to fast food restaurants, the deli has limited the number of customers they interact with in a day. Torres said that they are now doing curbside delivery instead of having customers enter the store to reduce the amount of interaction between employees and customers. On the contrary, despite the lobby being closed, the number of customers McDonald’s receives has not changed.
“We definitely get quite a bit less considering we don’t have our lobby open but we still get about 80 percent to 85 percent of our customers still,” Lemus said.
Other than limiting customer to employee interaction, Mcdonald’s and Prairy have strictly enforced extra precautions to keep workers safe. At Mcdonald’s employees are asked to wear gloves at the first window when taking money from customers and when they are taking food out to a parked order. At Prairy, similar rules are applied. For Torres and her place of work, similar rules are applied.
“We’re constantly washing our hands before and after we help customers and after anything we do, just to make sure we’re okay and we’re also sanitizing everything, just to help us and other people,” Torres said.
Although Torres and Lemus are allowed permission by their parents and manager to continue working during the pandemic, some of their coworkers are less fortunate and unable to work. Torres said the majority of her high school coworkers have quit working for the time being either because they are in quarantine after visiting out of state or because their parents will not let them take the chance. At Mcdonald’s, if an employee calls in sick they are not allowed to come back to work for two weeks without a doctor’s note.
“I’ve seen one of my coworkers have a joke about having it [coronavirus] so she got suspended for a while,” Lemus said.
Senior Meya Green who works at Bella Veil Bridal has found herself temporarily without a job due to the “stay at home order”. Green has been working at the bridal shop for almost a year and found out the shop was closing around a week ago. The bridal shop plans to open back up on April 19th, giving Green her job back after almost a month without work.
“I don’t make as much money as I did, I really can only make money doing like little things like helping out my parents or babysitting or things like that, but also my job was fun and I really enjoyed going and that environment was really like a safe space for me,” Green said.
Both student workers consider their jobs essential, McDonald’s is a food service so it is essential and Prairie is working to become mainly a grocery store, making it essential to those who shop locally at Prairie.
“It’s nice because I know some people who have food stamps and they shop with us, so I could see how if Walmart wasn’t an option for them, then we would be essential to them,” Torres said.