Fells Point Main Street, an organization representing businesses and residents in the neighborhood, held its second job fair Wednesday afternoon. The goal was to centralize the area’s many job opportunities, as Fells Point businesses say they’re desperately in need of staff.
Unfortunately, a rainstorm hit the city at the same time — a repeat of what happened at the first job fair in April, according to FPMS executive director Keith Mainhart.
“If the city needs more rain, I think I have an obligation to do more job fairs!” he joked.
From 2 p.m. to around 6 p.m., members of FPMS stood in Broadway Square with pamphlets detailing the job opportunities available.
The fair came a day after a group of Fells Point businesses sent a letter to city leaders threatening to withhold taxes if officials do not address crime and other problems in the neighborhood. Three people were shot in the area early Sunday morning. Though some of the businesses are separately affiliated with FPMS, the organization did not play a role in the letter, Mainhart said.
More than 30 businesses are hiring for positions, including service staff, sales associates and financial analysts. Candidates were able to browse the list of businesses, and then stop by the ones that caught their eye. Only a handful of visitors stopped by FPMS’ tent, possibly due to the deluge.
“We’re hoping to do this once a month as long as the businesses need it, because that is a big problem out here, getting people to fill out job opportunities,” Mainhart said.
Samantha Hofherr, director of operations for Kooper’s Tavern, said some of her employees weren’t interested in coming back once Kooper’s reopened, having found work elsewhere.
Jason Scheerer, general manager of Max’s Taphouse, cited similar problems.
“It’s just difficult when everybody’s looking for somebody,” Scheerer said. “Some people, they’ll work for a day and then not show up.”
U.S. employers have been reporting difficulty filling positions, particularly within the service industry. Experts say there are many reasons for this: among them, fear of catching COVID-19, people finding new occupations, and women leaving the workforce to look after their children.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, along with other Republicans across the country, attributes some of this difficulty to unemployment benefits. Hogan announced June 1 that the state would end a series of federal unemployment programs in early July, including the $300 weekly boost. Maryland will also require people receiving unemployment to show they’re looking for a job. Democratic lawmakers and activists have criticized the move, noting that these benefits serve as a lifeline for people struggling to find a decent-paying job.
Gray Wilson, 24, has been job hunting for six months after his graduation from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He stopped by the job fair hoping to find a position to help pay the bills while searching for a career more related to political science.
Wilson worked at Keystone Korner, a local jazz club, from 2019 until the start of the pandemic, when he was laid off. He enjoyed working as a server, but as the pandemic exposed underlying issues in the industry, he grew reluctant to rejoin it.
“I didn’t like the idea of risking myself for the benefit of people who still want to go to restaurants, while that kind of effort wasn’t being recognized financially,” Wilson said.
Now that he’s vaccinated, he feels more comfortable he won’t contract COVID. Still, he urges restaurants to implement fair policies and pay workers a living wage.
Ginny Lawhorn, president of the FPMS executive committee and owner of vegan restaurant Friends and Family, said she’s committed to paying her staff a living wage. She also promised staff she wouldn’t open indoor dining until all the workers were fully vaccinated. “It’s incredibly important for folks who have the capacity to employ people, to employ them as ethically, responsibly, and with as much engagement as possible,” Lawhorn said.
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“If we take this opportunity to change the ways we’re providing employment to our team members, we can change the desire of people to be in hospitality.”