We're Hiring: Amid Coronavirus Layoffs, Some Dayton Employers Need More Workers
Jennifer Woodward had just started as the head bartender at Sojourners Brewstillery, a new brewery in Centerville, when she began to hear rumblings about the coronavirus. She was not especially worried. She thought people would be stressed and would want to have a drink.
Then, on March 15, she got the news about Governor Mike DeWine’s order closing in-house dining at restaurants. She went into panic mode.
“It was very scary, just very uncertain,” she said. “Lots of tears were shed on that Sunday until 9 o'clock when we had to close out and be done.”
Now, Woodward is desperately applying for jobs. Even though she has asthma, she is willing to take the risk with her health to support her family. She has submitted about 10 applications online, for grocery stores like Kroger and Meijer and delivery services like Uber Eats.
“It's always ‘Your application has been received and will be reviewed.’ I haven't gotten anything back.” she said. “I'm sure everyone else has had the same idea.”
While some Ohio businesses like restaurants are laying off workers, others, including food delivery services and grocery stores, are looking to hire more people to keep up with demand. Large companies like Amazon and Costco are hiring many new workers. For some local businesses, hiring people during this health emergency is also a way to support the broader community.
On a weekday afternoon at Dorothy Lane Market’s Springboro store, it is all hands on deck for the staff. Cashiers wearing plastic gloves are checking out customers. Employees are wiping down carts. Even a company Vice President in a dress shirt is stocking shelves.
Store Director Dennis Chrisman said the company has hired local restaurant workers who were laid off after the governor’s orders.
“We've made a lot of handshake agreements with a lot of the restaurants and bars around here that, as soon as they're back in business, we'll give them back,” he said. “We're not out to steal somebody else's employee or associate, but we're just trying to make sure that they don't miss a paycheck.”
Dorothy Lane Market had employees sent over from local bars and restaurants the company has relationships with, including Meadowlark, Doubleday's Grill & Tavern, and The Phone Booth Lounge.
“When you're in the food business, you're in the food business. Whether you're the grocery store or the restaurant, we all share a kinship,” he said. “We believe in people feeding people. Unfortunately, a lot of our friends right now are struggling with that.”
Leah Presutti, Director of Human Resources at Dorothy Lane Market, said the company has taken on about 75 new temporary workers. But the company has also had to deal with some employees who do not feel safe coming in to work. She said about 10 to 15 percent of the workforce has stopped coming in.
With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advising the public to stay away from other people, for some, working in food service is not the most appealing job right now.
Lisa Garvic is Director of Human Resources and Operations for Senior Resource Connection, a nonprofit that delivers Meals on Wheels in the Dayton area. She says she has been struggling to hire delivery drivers.
“I honestly thought that we would get a lot more applications at this time with people that are unemployed, but it's slim pickings,” she said.
The nonprofit has gone from serving 3,000 meals per day to 3,500. Garvic needs 10 to 20 more drivers to accommodate the number of requests.
She has only received two applications in the past two weeks. During other periods with high unemployment, she would get 20 to 50 applications a week. The increase in orders and the limited staff is putting a strain on the organization.
“I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It's kind of ugly. The cash is running short,” she said. “When we are seeing an uptick of 100 additional clients per day, and that's just going to increase as we move forward with this, we could really use additional funding.”
With the threat of the coronavirus affecting every part of the economy, even local employers needing to hire more workers are facing complicated challenges.