So Much for this St. Pauli Girl
Being accommodating is part of the industry, but sometimes you have to say, "no."
This fall I started picking up some weekend shifts at a restaurant kitchen. The kind of restaurant with the taps flowing and a lot of fun being had, whether it was staff parties, or big family events, or just people having a beer to relax after work.
Restaurant work is very hard, but it is also satisfying and I loved it. It was a way to get out of the house, make a little extra cash, and do something more real than doomscrolling social media. What kind of work is more direct and human than making food for people?
Not to mention the people I worked with were having a great time, in between piling up nachos and tossing pizza dough there was always great music playing and a beer after work with the crew. I made friends I will have forever.
Like I said, I loved it.
So I was torn when the company decided to implement a COVID vaccine mandate this month. Employees had until December 15th to hand in a vaccine record to be copied and kept on file or they would be removed from the schedule.
It didn’t really have to affect me. After all, I am vaccinated for COVID. I didn’t have to be fired over it. I could have looked the other way and not made a problem.
But at least two other people in the kitchen were going to be fired, and hadn’t worked there quite long enough to even qualify for unemployment. One of them had COVID several weeks ago and was therefore probably the most immune-to-COVID person in the building.
Potential “accommodations” unvaccinated employees would be offered IF they received an approved religious or medical exemption included “a change in job duties” or even “unpaid leave.”
Imagine being told two weeks before Christmas that your religious beliefs mean you will be fired or put on unpaid leave by your job? With no possibility of unemployment benefits?
So I said “no.”
I could have been a good little girl and handed in my paperwork and said goodbye to the friends I had when they worked their final shifts next week.
But instead, when my direct manager came to me and asked if he could put my vaccination information on file, I told him I wouldn’t be providing it. And I told him why.
“I know this decision doesn’t come from you,” I told him, “but I think it’s pretty crappy to fire people right before Christmas because they don’t want to get a shot. And I’m not going to be participating in it. I love working here, and I’m sorry we’re having to have this conversation, but I’m not bringing in my vaccine card for you.”
So today is my final St. Pauli girl shift.
I’ll miss it, but I’ll still have my friends and I won’t have to go into work feeling the empty space that was left when they were let go, or know that I was a part of them losing their jobs.