As restaurants and bars close down to carry-out only across the St. Louis region, leaving servers and bartenders out-of-work, some businesses are looking for workers.
Schnucks and Dierbergs, for instance.
While the Schnucks stores have reduced their hours at most locations and closed many customer service centers, the grocer said it still needs help. So does Dierbergs.
Schnucks said some of the jobs it fills could last beyond the immediate coronavirus-related time frame; Dierbergs indicated it was seeking temporary workers.
All Schnucks stores, except for the Culinaria downtown, are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The stores in Shrewsbury and Lemay will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and the Alton store at Oakwoods will be closed while its workers are sent to other locations. Culinaria will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and closed Saturday and Sunday. The first hour, from 6 a.m to 7 a.m., is set aside for people 60 and older and those at highest risk for COVID-19.
Dierbergs stores are open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m, with the first hour set aside for adults 60 and over and people with compromised immune systems.
Paul Simon, a spokesman for Schnucks, said it’s looking to add 500 employees in the St. Louis area.
“We’ve seen such an increase in customer traffic in the past week or so,” he said. “We need help on the front end, checking and bagging, and on the clerk end stocking the shelves.”
The chain also has seen “quite a bit” of an increase in its delivery service, which operates through Instacart, Simon said.
The union that represents Schnucks and Dierbergs employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655, is talking with other labor leaders about helping get temporary jobs for those out of work due to event cancellations and closures. Unite Here Local 74, which represents workers at the some of the region's stadiums, arenas, hotels and casinos, has asked whether some of its members could quickly be moved into grocery jobs.
UFCW Local 655 Communications Director Collin Reischman said the union is in talks with grocers to see if they can "funnel some good union workers into those stores since they are so needed right now." The talks are preliminary but an attempt to help workers in industries that have been "decimated" by the closures, Reischman said.
Jet's Pizza, which says it has 386 franchises in Missouri, Illinois and 18 other states, said Thursday that they need hundreds of new delivery drivers, who can make $13-$16 an hour.
Amazon also said this week it is hoping to add 100,000 employees at its warehouses and as delivery people. With millions of Americans staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic, demand for home delivery has surged.
Amazon also said it would raise its minimum hourly pay to at least $17 an hour through April.
Other businesses are seeing an increase in business but haven't yet needed to aid workers.
Ellen Reineke of the commercial cleaning and restoration company Servpro of Clayton / Ladue said demand is up.
"Most of them aren’t confirmed (coronavirus) cases. They want us to come out – just in case," she said.
The Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial unemployment claims across the country were up 70,000 in the week ending March 14, to 281,000. The department said the increase was “clearly attributable to impacts from the COVID-19 virus.” A number of states cited layoffs related to the virus and others reported job losses in accommodation, food services, transportation and warehousing, the department said.
Missouri unemployment claims rose to 3,822 in the week ending March 14, up from 2,994 the previous week. Illinois claims jumped from 8,727 to 10,922, or an increase of 2,195.
But those numbers are likely to be much higher soon. A spokeswoman for the Department of Employment Security told the Chicago Tribune Wednesday that more than 41,000 Illinois residents filed for unemployment on Monday and Tuesday alone.
Missouri's Department of Labor has information online at labor.mo.gov for affected workers. Generally, employees who are out of work and going unpaid due to the virus can receive benefits, the department says. Instead of laying off workers, eligible employers can divide the available work among employees through the state's Shared Work Unemployment Compensation Program.
Jacob Barker and Robert Patrick of the Post-Dispatch contributed information to this article.
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