Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Roulette Wheel

I cannot stress enough the lies and bullshit that goes into the mythology of Nashville and its constant cry of being the "It" City.  Again that was made five years ago so that seems to be past the sell by date by now.  But tell that to the money men here who are throwing cash down as if they are in Vegas at the Roulette table.

The hysteria on opening another hotel, another restaurant/bar/coffee shop has reached full tilt boogie with much poaching and parsing of the staff who again make minimum wage and in some case fall into the classification of those making true food and beverage service worker minimum tip wage to level out at the 7 dollar an hour federal minimum.  Now for in demand workers and those cities that have raised the minimum wage they have affected the costs of running the business but here in Nashville they have no problem as there are few and far between full service restaurants and those that open close quickly as they cannot sustain the costs of doing so as neither tourists nor locals go to them enough to make them financially solvent.  The most recent here was Kuchina & Keller in Germantown that managed six months before closing its doors.  Don't worry the "investor" has already found another "concept" in which to open the doors as soon as possible.  As for the staff and workers they will go onto the next.   It was that day sitting at Barista Parlor when I was taking to a gentleman from Seattle about "industry" here in Nashville and pointed to the kids posing out front taking farewell photos at K&K as that is the industry and that is just another casualty in the roadkill of being an "it" city.  The reality is that is why the city dynamic its education credentials, the wages and the overall composition of a city that declares itself "evangelical" will not change much.

This is the current stats from the Department of Labor regarding the service trade:

Quick Facts: Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers
2017 Median Pay $20,410 per year
$9.81 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education No formal educational credential
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 5,122,600
Job Outlook, 2016-26 14% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 694,300
What Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers Do

Food and beverage serving and related workers perform a variety of customer service, food preparation, and cleaning duties in restaurants, cafeterias, and other eating and drinking establishments.
Work Environment

Food and beverage serving and related workers are employed in restaurants, schools, hospitals, cafeterias, and other dining places. Work shifts often include early mornings, late evenings, weekends, and holidays. Many food and beverage serving and related workers worked part time in 2016.
How to Become a Food and Beverage Serving or Related Worker

Most food and beverage serving and related workers learn their skills on the job. No formal education or previous work experience is required.

The median hourly wage for food and beverage serving and related workers was $9.81 in May 2017.
Job Outlook

Employment of food and beverage serving and related workers is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects in most dining establishments will be excellent because many workers leave the occupation each year, resulting in numerous job openings.

And when I went on the tour of the new liquor Uncle Nears Tennessee Whiskey I was fairly shocked that the expense and time involved to invite all these servers was money well spent.  Few if any will do little to promote or sell her brand.  One young girl said it was the only whiskey she drank, was friends with the assistant of the family and in turn was leaving to travel in a month after a job in Florida fell through.  So this was a great free day.  I probably wrote more about the journey and the whiskey in my So Close So Near than anyone who attended that day.  I simply felt hopeful and bad all at the same time regarding the money and effort being spent in an almost hysterical way to build a brand.   But they are not alone here.

The truth is that this city is a city of med and ed.  The largest employer is Vanderbilt and they have made Nashville Vandyland more than any of the honky tonks on Broadway.   They in turn are the highest paying jobs in the city as listed by Zippia the Career Expert.

Here’s a quick look at the top ten highest paying jobs in Nashville:
  1. Physicians and Surgeons, All Other
  2. Psychiatrists
  3. Pediatricians, General
  4. Family and General Practitioners
  5. Dentists, General
  6. Chief Executives
  7. Internists, General
  8. Podiatrists
  9. Nurse Anesthetists
  10. Lawyers

Now those are not much different than any other cities other than actual wages and when you click on the link you can seem comparable salaries for the varying cities and hospitals across the country.

Again I don't know this source or their standards for assembling data but this much is true regardless and all of these jobs require a significant commitment to education, to possessing numerous degrees and professional certifications which all cost money and in turn debt.  So while they elevate the median regarding wage and education stats the reality is that they are not celebrities clearing millions to live in these absurd multi million dollar condos and other builds littering the skyscape of the new Nashville.

And that in turn explains the reality of how numbers can be misleading. Note the average and then look at the median which for those who went to Nashville public education means the middle wage.  And for the record, neither are the level in takes to live "comfortably" in the area.

Household Income and Average Income in Nashville top
Average Household Income $66,846
Median Household Income $43,847
Percent Increase/Decrease in Income Since 2000 27%
Percent Increase/Decrease in Income Since 2010 6%
Average Household Net Worth $403,506
Nashville is the priciest place to live in Tennessee, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The organization recently released its 2018 family budget calculator that estimates how costly it is to live in each of America's 611 metro areas and 3,142 counties.

The group estimates a family of two adults and two children in Nashville would need to earn a combined $79,228 per year — or $6,602 a month — to live comfortably.

Here's how the group breaks down that number:

Housing: $1,002 per month
Food: $792 per month
Child Care: $1,052 per month
Transportation: $1,170 per month
Other Necessities: $724 per month
Taxes: $693 per month

San Francisco ranked first in the nation as the most expensive metro area with a basic budget of $148,439 a year for a two-parent, two-child household. On the flipside, that same household would only need to earn $58,906 to live comfortably in Brownsville, Texas, the least expensive metro area in the country.  Will that be the next 'it' city?

According to the Economic Policy Institute that broke down these numbers they found that many low-wage workers don't make enough money to adequately provide for their family's basic needs. Even after adjusting for higher state and city minimum wages, the group said, there is "nowhere in the country" where a minimum-wage worker would earns enough.

But in Tennessee we lie and lie again:  “We are pleased to report that the average wage for all occupations in Tennessee increased $0.30 cents per hour from $19.55 to $19.85/hourly,” Commissioner Burns Phillips said. Increase in the state's average hourly wage represents a yearly average wage of $41,296.00.Jun 17, 2016"  
And this according to the Department of Labor the median wage of a F&B worker is 21K, according to Nashville the median wage is 43K.  So which is it?  I am not sure any service worker is making 21K but I sure know they are not making 43K.    Right now the median wage has risen here to 45-47K and frankly again that is I suspect due to the current growth in the hospital industry as facilities here are building new wings and adding to their service and care divisions.  

Now this is for private care in a State that has few covered with private insurance and no push for public coverage of Medicaid so how is this working out?  Again spin the wheel.  If poor and a minority you are not covered.  And again those who work in the service industry are covered but I suspect with high deductible and at significant cost that affects wages.    Many are not covered (right now close to 17%) and in turn that too contributes to health problems and other issues that can seriously damage long term wage and financial stability.

This is a right to work state, there are no job protections, no unions and no organized labor of any kind.  Workers here are largely lowly educated and transplants and have much to lose if they they lose their jobs.  Here fear is a factor that dominates the culture and logic and facts not.    I spoke to one food service worker who has lived here eight years and moved nine times.  He now lives outside the city and commutes a half hour to his gig that he is now quitting and moving onto the next new roasting and coffee company opening in a week.  Yes the wheel spins and spins and sometimes you have to get off and wonder what is the point.  Between Yoga Studios, Barre Studios, CrossFits and other small local franchises that are the only way to own a business here I wonder how they survive in what is already an overcrowded marketplace.   And now as of the 1st of August all of them are required to pay sales tax on memberships and classes so that too is passed onto the customers.  Already tapped out at one of the most regressive taxes in the country, the winner in this will be the Y as they are exempt.  I hope their membership drives kick in full notch in the weeks ahead as this levels the playing field.
So we have a two tier economy - the have and have nots.  This is throughout America and when you are a have you have no idea who is not benefiting from this and hence the Trump Affect.  The reality is that in I got mine fuck you we really only see the forest and not the trees.  I speak to a great many people about what I see here in Nashville and for some they are appreciative of the truth as few speak it here, others not so much.  So they go to Church and pray but prayers don't come cheap as they too have their hand and their basket out to tithe away.

I don't think I can recall the names of the Grocery Clerks, the coffee servers, the Bank Tellers and the Car Rental Agents that have been in the same job for a year let alone months.  The revolving door of employees keeps the doors open but at what costs for training and for the customers who try to have a consistent experience?  I don't think anyone thinks that anyone is a returning customer so they focus on the moment.  Good way to run a business and unless it is a business that is a basic necessity then it closes the doors, puts new ones on the front, a new sign and moves onto the next.   I put 5 on Black Alex!  The real money is on the number and the color and that is the risk.  I am not sure anyone here plays that serious a game here but they play nonetheless.

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