"We all quit," a Lincoln, Nebraska Burger King (parent company Yum! Brands
The incident quickly went viral, with members of the press eventually catching up to the former employees for comment. "We became essential; and then we weren't treated essential by upper management." said Kylee Johnson. While the viral status of an incident will likely have little effect for Yum! or Burger King, the incident and Johnson's reason for her and her co-workers' mass resignation should be much more concerning not just for the restaurant operators but also for the restaurant operators low-wage employers in general.
The employees of the Lincoln Burger King are just a few of the countless low-wage workers in the United States acting out against employers over the nature of their work. Many low-wage jobs, especially those in foodservice, demand long hours of their employees for unlivable wages and a dearth of benefits. As it had been, the status quo was to take multiple jobs and simply endure the high-stress nature of low-wage work, as it has become the only means of employment for many workers.
The sudden onset of the coronavirus pandemic has triggered the deployment of stimulus benefits that would allow low-wage workers to stay at home while making livable wages and seems to have caused a mass questioning of the nature of low-wage jobs by workers. It's the questioning of the very nature of high-stress, low-wage work that should be of utmost concern for low-wage employers; even when stimulus measures fully expire, workers have shown that their tolerance for such employment has been greatly diminished.
Complicating matters currently is the ongoing competition between low-wage employers and stimulus unemployment, which keeps low-wage workers at home despite a reduction in payment size to $300. The competition between many businesses has triggered a blitz of wage increases, newly instituted benefits, and signing bonuses. This will likely become the trend going forward, especially as workers exercise more caution in taking historically taxing low-wage work.
Reconciliation with low-wage workers only appears to be beneficial for employers going forward. The nature of low-wage work meant that many high-stress jobs such as fry cooking or convenience retail experienced high turnover due to the poor conditions and unlivable wage. Addressing concerns of work conditions could help reduce the expenditures for employers while increasing employee satisfaction and retention.
If the trend holds, the inevitable outcome is the failure of many businesses that cannot afford higher wages. As many experts have pointed out, though, there is a considerable saturation of small businesses in the United States. The likely inevitable outcome will see companies that can adjust their business model attracting workers, while many others fail. While dismal, equilibrium between labor supply and demand could be immensely beneficial for economic recovery post-pandemic, especially if employers can adequately address the complaints of low-wage workers.