Are Restaurant Workers Really Essential?
Covid-19 is sweeping across the country as steadily as the scent of weed blows across an Applebee’s parking lot, and more and more employees are having to put themselves at risk to go to their essential jobs. Over the last few months, the definition of an essential worker has turned more gray than a ribeye steak left out to thaw for too long. Who really is an essential worker? Healthcare professionals? Definitely essential. Police offers and firefighters? Of course. Restaurant workers? Maybe not. While some customers are craving the sense of normalcy they get from dining out, and there are plenty of servers who are grateful to have a job, there are lots of people who question whether or not restaurants should even be open in the first place.
Researchers at Stanford University and Northwestern University have recently determined that the reopening of restaurants, gyms and hotels carries the highest danger of spreading Covid-19, yet city after city is determined to keep their restaurants open in an effort to keep small businesses afloat. Customers might be required to wear a mask to enter the restaurant, but once they sit down, off goes the mask for the next ninety minutes as they eat, drink and blissfully spew their germs across the dining room. Restaurant employees are wearing masks to keep from spreading germs to customers, but what’s protecting the servers from mask-less assholes who are in desperate need of fried calamari? Absolutely nothing. Going out to dinner seems like more of a privilege than a right and deeming restaurant staff as essential workers seems unfair to those tasked with enforcing the new regulations. A 17-year old girl who is in charge of wiping down menus and escorting families to a booth is the same person who has to explain a state mandated mask requirement to a middle-aged man, and that just doesn’t seem right. In addition to having to endure the anger of Covid-19 deniers, these restaurant workers are also putting their own health at risk.
Grocery store workers are essential, but those employees are not required to stand within inches of a customer who isn’t wearing a mask. Those customers are also in and out of the store as quickly as possible and not sitting in one place the entire time. And if grocery stores are open, couldn’t everyone just cook for themselves for a couple of months in order to get the pandemic under control? Yes, that would mean that restaurants would shut down, just like schools and offices have, and then those restaurant employees would have no income. But wouldn’t it have been nice if our government could have taken Covid-19 seriously enough to ensure that anyone who had lost their job because of the pandemic would be able to still pay their bills and be safe from catching a deadly virus or passing it on to others? Our country has been marginally stalled for eight months now, some states shut down more than others, making it impossible for everyone in the country to be on the same page. It almost seems better to stop pretending that going out to eat in a restaurant is an essential need and to shut everything down for two hard months while making sure business owners and employees alike are being taken care of. Maybe it’s too late for that. Maybe our country just thinks that people dying for an order of cheddar bay biscuits is worth it.
Are restaurant employees essential workers? Most of the people who work in restaurants think not, but the customer is always right, so servers will carry on and carry trays and carry coronavirus right to a restaurant near you. And if so many customers think restaurant employees are essential workers, maybe those workers should be seeing some hazard pay.