‘We need more people to come out looking for jobs’

Market owner discusses current workforce situation

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published July 2, 2021

 Before the pandemic, Randazzo’s workforce was about 300 employees. Now, that number is roughly 230.

Before the pandemic, Randazzo’s workforce was about 300 employees. Now, that number is roughly 230.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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MACOMB COUNTY — Despite worker shortages, Sonny Randazzo believes now is probably the largest wage increase businesses have seen in decades.

He calls it a positive that can be taken away from the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the American workforce.

Randazzo is the owner of Randazzo Fresh Market, which has locations in Macomb Township, Clinton Township and Warren.

When asked to describe the current workforce and hiring trend, Randazzo said that it’s definitely challenging.

“Labor is a commodity that is in short supply right now,” he said. “Because of that, wages are rising, and we need more people to come out looking for jobs.”

Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity website states that Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, is a temporary federal program that provides up to 50 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance.

In Michigan, the minimum weekly benefit amount is $160, with a maximum amount of $362.

PUA was instituted along with an extra $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits, which are now $300 per week. Those federal benefits are set to expire Sept. 4.

“I can’t compete with the government. It’s just too difficult,” Randazzo said in regard to wages. “We’re doing our best to service our customers and take care of our current help the best we can.”

During the pandemic, pay raises were given to Randazzo staff. Randazzo said that, due to labor shortage, wages have steadily increased for those working.

Before the pandemic, across the three locations, the market’s workforce was about 300 employees. Now, Randazzo said that number is roughly 230.

He believes that folks need to be incentivized to get back to work.

“Once that happens, this problem will melt away,” Randazzo said.

Randazzo took time to commend his employees who have stepped up when needed most.

“We’re so proud of them all. We’re asking a lot of many of them now. They’re covering shifts and working doubles,” he said. “They’re getting a lot of overtime. The people that are working are doing well. That’s something that is so positive about the whole thing.”

Randazzo said that, until there is more incentive for people to look for jobs, the current situation — an employee shortage — will remain.

“Hopefully with more people getting back to work and COVID restrictions coming off, they’re going to put things back the way we’ve all been used to,” he said. “These waits and shortages we are all experiencing, and I think the whole supply chain will start easing up.”

Before the pandemic, he said that hiring was always somewhat of an issue.

“Right now, it’s the worst conditions we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Randazzo indicated that all three locations need just as much staff.

It’s not just retailers and restaurants that are having trouble finding employees, said Kelley Lovati, CEO of the Macomb County Chamber.

“Our businesses, our members, are very much struggling in most industries,” she said. “A lot of it, frankly, has to do with the unemployment benefits that are being offered to employees.”

The fact that the American Rescue Plan now also calls for employees to receive fully subsidized health insurance through COBRA, with employers being reimbursed for costs through a refundable tax credit, from April 1 to Sept. 1, is “making it less attractive for people to come back to work,” she said.

Lovati said she has heard from her members that some restaurant owners are now cooking because they can’t find employees, and even those who are raising wages and offering signing bonuses aren’t necessarily having any better luck.

Randazzo also mentioned how grateful he is for students who are out of school and are stepping up to work, filling the void.

“If the governor lifts some incentives to not work and incentivizes people to work, then what will happen at the end of the summer when they go back?” he said. “There’s going to be a big wave of shortages again.”

Right now, Randazzo said applications are being accepted for all positions, minus management. He said the company is not picky if people want full- or part-time work.

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