The story is a familiar one. Lower-wage employers aren’t able to find workers when they can make as much or more on pandemic unemployment, perhaps they still have stimulus money banked, and they need schools to re-open so they can work without childcare expenses.
Airports are having a difficult time because on-site businesses employ a lot of low wage workers. For instance go find someone to help a passenger in a wheelchair at major airports today. I’ve heard several stories recently about flight attendants finding wheelchairs and pushing passengers to their next gate.
American Airlines blames a worker shortage (drivers in particular) for difficulty catering planes at Dallas – Fort Worth, and says several Starbucks remain closed there because workers aren’t available.
I’ve written about why employers might be willing to pay up front bonuses to hire someone, but are reluctant to raise wages very much in hopes of attracting workers back into the labor market.
Dallas – Fort Worth airport has a strategy to keep wages down: tell businesses at the airport not to poach from each other. Someone currently willing to work $15 an hour shouldn’t be hired away at $16.
Leslie Josephs reports on a memo sent by DFW airport to businesses on property telling them not to try to pay more money to hire workers away from other airport businesses:
“As you know, we are experiencing one of the greatest hiring challenges in the history of DFW Airport,” Ken Buchanan, executive vice president of revenue management and customer experience, wrote to concessionaires in a May 27 letter reviewed by CNBC. “As we prepare for a busy summer, please continue to practice DFW Airport’s high standards of hiring operations and refrain from soliciting employees from other DFW operations (‘poaching’).”
Concessionaires like the idea so much they want to make it a requirement of airport leases,
Gilbert Aranza, CEO of Star Concessions, which operates or jointly runs more than 50 food, beverage and retail businesses at DFW and Dallas Love Field, said he wants the airport to add rules against employee poaching in leases. He said the idea was inspired by the NFL’s anti-tampering rules, which prohibit rival teams from courting a player who is under contract with another club.
This particular big airport business is chafing, apparently, because they had to pay an extra $1 an hour to retain a worker,
A cook at one of his other restaurants, who declined to give her name, said she was approached by a manager at another eatery asking if she would join for $1 an hour more, or $16. Aranza’s restaurant matched the proposed increase.
Concessions workers don’t make nearly as much as NFL players. They also aren’t generally under contract, either. Non-compete agreements often aren’t enforceable against low wage workers, so they’d like the airport to do their dirty work for them. It’s not clear, though, that this would pass muster at the Department of Transportation where far more money is on the line than that garnered from concessions leases (or Department of Justice, for that matter).
There’s finally demand for the services these worker are offering, and businesses and government entities (airport authorities) are colluding to make sure they can’t since it would crimp margins.