Business owners offer incentives to address worker shortage

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George Mugianis is the owner of Luxury Loud, a small marijuana dispensary in Detroit, who said that offering a livable wage is the bare minimum he can do for his employees. 

“We are not offering a hiring bonus, what we always talk about is quality of life,” said Mugianis. “We expect people to take vacations, we expect people to not be concerned about their healthcare, we expect people to be able to take sick days.” 

Mugianis starts all his employees at $16 per hour, then moves them to a salary after their first 90 days. Mugianis said that thanks to this method and his quality-of-life philosophy, he has only lost three employees since he first opened his store.

“I will never talk about what kind of car I drive to work; I want to see what kind of car my people who work for me drive to work,” said Mugianis. 

Mugianis said his goal is to make money off his customers, not his employees. He said that underpaying workers and not allowing them to get overtime creates abject poverty, and he wants to see his employees be able to give back one day if they choose to do so. 

The labor shortage has been a continuous conversation among employees and employers alike. “Help Wanted” signs are posted everywhere from restaurant windows to fast food marquees with various methods of applying. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more jobs than ever hiring but the country is 8 million jobs shy of where we were before the pandemic. 

Evan Daughtery, an employee of Mugianis and a manager at Luxury Loud, said the pay and the work environment make working at Luxury Loud worth his time. 

“It is really important for me and here just in my role having more and more input, more authority to kind of implement some of my desires, my suggestions you know,” said Daughtery. “So, I don’t really feel like I have a boss, to be honest, I feel like more things fall on me so I’m kind of running it the way I want to.” 

Luxury Loud storefront in Detroit; employee Devin Jackson pictured.

Assembly plants are a common source of employment in the Motor City so several of them, including Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, General Motors, Hi-Lex Controls, and JA Quality Assurance Group, have chosen to implement retention, signing, and attendance incentives for new employees. 

Cameron Clarke, an injection molding employee at Detroit Manufacturing Systems plant, said that his plant is offering attendance and retention bonuses on top of the $14 per hour starting pay. 

“If you were to complete your [first] 90 days, and I think another 90 on top of that, they give you an extra $200 respectively for completing each one without missing a day,” Clarke said.

Clarke said the job being a short walk from his Detroit home – just across the freeway – was a large reason he chose to work there, but not the most important. 

“They do tuition assistance, and that was a big, big thing because I do plan on finishing,” said Clarke.

Lewis Cass Technical High School teacher Ahmeena Walker said the incentives to attract and obtain teachers have been ongoing for years, along with the decline of teachers. Data from Chalkbeat supports her statement.

Three-year stability rate of teachers in Michigan schools. Data by Chalkbeat.

“Starting pay was 36 or 38,000 but it went all the way up to 55,000 because it was such a shortage of teachers in Detroit Public Schools,” said Walker “This started two years ago.”

Walker said the schools are offering hazard pay of $2,000 for working during school hours through the pandemic and an additional $2,000 for working after school during the pandemic. However, Walker said she was less concerned about the money, she was willing to work because she loves what she does. 

“Apply Today” sign posted outside of Lewis Cass Technical High School in Detroit

“I teach a lot of kids that want to be doctors and nurses and medical professionals and so they’re very serious about learning,” said Walker. “Just that, and then the kids’ enthusiasm made me step up a notch, as a teacher, because my students were so enthused about learning.”

Because of the labor shortage, Keith Edgerson has been working overtime at his job at a bumper plant in Sterling Heights, but he is not complaining.

“They’ve got all types of initiatives going on,” said Edgerson. “If you reference somebody and they stay the whole time [90 days], they give you a thousand dollars.”

Edgerson’s plant is offering generous referral bonuses, attendance bonuses, and overtime bonuses to encourage new hires. While Edgerson was not able to obtain the benefits of the new hire bonuses, he said he took advantage of the overtime opportunities.

“Once you got 40 hours, they gave you a dollar more. You got 50 hours; they gave you $2 more. You got 60 hours; they gave you $3 more,” said Edgerson. “You can see the difference in the check.” 

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