Struggling To Fill Jobs, Some Distribution Centers Dealing With Staff Shortages

Posted at 7:35 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 07:35:31-05

LANSING, Mich. — Grocery stores across the country are still busier than ever, but why are jobs in places that help get food to your table going unfilled? Chris Conte takes us inside a grocery distribution center.

Feeding the country during a pandemic is no short order. In fact, it's an incredibly tall one stacked 60 feet high in warehouses across the country. "Our biggest challenge is keeping people safe." That is Mike Violette, he's the CEO at Associate Grocers of New England.

We first met Mike back in March, when Americans were buying food in record numbers. "I'm grabbing yams right now, it's just once pace, you know." Workers in this warehouse could barely keep up. Shelves sat as empty as suppliers couldn't keep up with demand for everything from paper towels to flour.

"What we saw last March you won’t see that again, paper manufacturers have changed their lines, what they’re producing and how they’re producing demand for groceries across the country is still up nearly 20% over this time last year."

There are random shortages for things like glass mason jars. People are cooking, people are eating at home and they’re cooking. A lot of people learned to cook from last March forward and they’re doing more of it this time around.

Mike and other grocers are urging Americans to avoid panic buying as some states reimpose COVID restrictions. "There’s no need to stock up, they’ll be plenty of product the food supply is strong and by people stocking up it make it harder for people to get products and people have to make more frequent stops to go to the store."

There’s something else they’ve noticed here, even with near record numbers of American unemployed, they’re having trouble filling jobs. Warehouses and factories across the country have noticed similar trends.

Part of the reason workers are concerned about catching COVID and not filling open positions. Starting pay for a job here is around $15 an hour - it comes with healthcare and paid time off, but this is not the kind of job that can be done from home, and there's this, "I think a lot of it is the type of work that it is, it involves heavy lifting so it can be hard work", but, all that aside, these men and women will keep working to keep grocery stores stocked, to keep America fed, during the pandemic.

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