Facing a labor shortage, Macy's is just making its corporate employees work the floor.
This national shortage of service workers has big companies in a chokehold and Macy’s just sent some pretty desperate emails to its corporate employees asking them to volunteer for in-store shifts during Black Friday and the holidays, according to the Washington Post.
The chipper language in the emails and memo obtained by the Post does little to obscure what is actually a chilling cry for help. In its email, Macy’s asked corporate workers to volunteer for up to three eight-hour shifts doing everything a retail worker is supposed to do, like fold clothes and knock on the door of a changing room that’s been busy for like, half an hour now.
And, just in case those workers have never worked a job where they have to stand up, Macy’s also suggested they “wear comfortable, close-toed shoes.” The kicker is that Macy’s has a name straight out of a Hallmark movie for the new program they are using to exploit their office workers: Experience Elevation Elves.
While I’m sure that being an Experience Elevation Elf will come with its share of camaraderie, as a spokesperson for Macy’s suggested in a statement, this is just one of many fascinating late capitalist tactics that companies might have to start using to address their labor shortages. Recently, Macy’s said that it was trying to fill 76,000 positions across its stores and raised its hourly rate to $15 an hour on top of offering free college tuition, reported the Post.
Even with all of that, the company is still struggling to have enough workers during the most important time of year for its bottom line. All of this, of course, begs the question of why the hell they weren’t offering higher wages before the labor shortage and whether their efforts to pay workers a living wage will turn out to be too little too late.
The labor shortage is not specific to Macy’s — although it’s particularly rampant among service industries, a staggering 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In retail, this is partially a result of mass layoffs during the pandemic followed by an increase in sales and a growing demand for retail services. There’s not enough labor to meet that growth, which has been driving companies to look everywhere for potential workers and offer much more than they were before the pandemic. Our current moment has opened the door for labor movements led by young people who feel like they have more wiggle room to negotiate wages and working conditions for the first time in a long time.
What stores like Macy’s seem to fail to understand is that people are no longer incentivized to ensure the survival of a company just because it’s got a big fancy name — if you want workers, you’re going to have to pay us fairly and respect us a little more. At a moment when young people aren’t blindly loyal to corporations, especially when we know from personal experience that they will lay us off in a heartbeat during times of crisis, it’s going to take a lot more than promises of workplace camaraderie to make us bust our backs for no extra cash. Especially when the alternative is laying on our couches in a blissful state of pumpkin-pie-induced oblivion.