Campus, Coronavirus, News

Student workers face hour shortage and unemployment in wake of pandemic

By Manuel Valladares and Eric Watson-Bailey

Preparing the meals for thousands of students is not easy, but for Larissa Simmons, a fourth-year healthcare administration major, it’s a routine.  

Working as the Parkside College Dining Hall shift leader, this routine for Simmons has been a part of her college-life for the past three years. 

However, it came to an end Sunday. 

“We were all given a message on our scheduling app Monday saying that our last meal served will be March 22 Sunday dinner,” Simmons said. “By then, lots of workers went home, but given the circumstances, we cut many hours and many shifts starting Tuesday.”

She added that 49er Shops employees were notified that they will continue to be paid until March 29.

In response to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, on-campus businesses at Long Beach State have begun adjusting their business models accordingly. In the process, many student employees have been affected by these abrupt changes.

Simmons is one of the many student workers affected by the campus closure due to the global pandemic caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.

Since the decision was made March 17 to move to “alternative teaching” methods through the rest of the semester, many students who work on campus will find themselves without work. 

With businesses practicing social distancing techniques and reducing the number of employees, Simmons also saw her internship with Kaiser Permanente cut short, as well.

“A lot of us HCA majors interning at hospitals were told we can’t come back,” Simmons said. “Most of us were short of our 120-hour requirement, so we now have to do alternate assignments.”

Students aren’t the only ones on campus feeling the effects of COVID-19.

“49er Shops sent us an email saying those over [age] 65 shouldn’t be on campus anymore but would continue to be paid,” Simmons said. “So two of our chefs had to leave starting Tuesday.” 

Rosa Hernandez, director of human resources for the 49er Shops, notified its student employees that their pay would be unchanged from their regularly scheduled shifts.

“We appreciate your patience as we navigate through this changing environment,” Hernandez said. “Please continue to work with your managers for department-specific questions.”

The Starbucks located in the University Dining Plaza has closed and workers said they have yet to get more details as to what’s next for the establishment.

In the University Library Starbucks has closed until the end of the spring semester as a result of the COVID-19 concerns. This comes after the Student Recreation and Wellness Center also decided to close for the remainder of the semester.

Concerns over COVID-19’s impact has led to not only a decrease in customers but now a reduction of hours for workers. 

Kimberly Ramos, a fourth-year liberal studies major and Starbucks barista at the UDP, has seen the impact the virus has had on student employees as hours began to reduce.

“There have already been a few issues with us limiting hours,” Ramos said. “We have bills to pay and with our hours being cut some of us won’t be making enough to pay those bills or have a little extra money to sit on.”

Gwendolyne Castro, the 49er Shops’ human resources manager, said that she could not comment on these adjustments at this time, but said: “it’s an ongoing process.”

With the managers still finalizing their adjustments, it does create some level of concern for all the student employees involved. Isabella Arnold, a fellow UDP Starbucks barista, has needed to adjust her living situation as a result of the coronavirus.

“Personally, I live in the dorms but I went home and [currently am] not working until further notice … [which] they have been really accommodating [with],” Arnold said. 

As some workers head home to live with their parents, others are still looking to sustain themselves through the income they earn at school. Scarce hours and the need to pay bills are what Arnold considered “one of the most frustrating parts” about the current process.

To assist in the current transition, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that those who are now unemployed or have lost significant hours due to the impacts of COVID-19 are able to file for an unemployment insurance claim. Newsom also noted that the one week waiting period to receive this insurance would be removed.

Employees who have reduced hours and are also eligible for the program will receive benefits ranging between $40 to $450 per week, possibly giving student workers some assistance as they try to stay afloat.

For those who are still able to get a stable amount of hours, the issue of contracting the coronavirus still lingers and leaves student employees at risk. 

“One of my main concerns I have about my coworkers and myself is our safety,” Ramos said. “The midst of this pandemic has us questioning what is more important, our jobs or our health?”

For up-to-date coverage on coronavirus at CSULB, visit our live coverage page.

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  1. Pingback: 49er Shops lays off hundreds of student-employees amid coronavirus pandemic

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