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The American Labor Crisis Has Hit All the Small Businesses on This One Street

Salena Zito on

PITTSBURGH -- It's 4:30 in the morning, and Raymond Mikesell's alarm has gone off.

Within an hour, as the first rays of pink and orange morning light reflect off the skyscrapers in the city, Mikesell is at his restaurant, Cafe Raymond, in the Strip District, the city's Main Street for small businesses.

On his way to the restaurant, he stops by the food terminals, hoping they will have the produce and stock he needs for the day. But he ends up having to turn away the beverage distributor at his own loading dock.

"I ordered over $1,000 in bottled water, tea and drinks and he tells me he only has about $100 worth of the supplies I ordered for the day. It's the third time this week this has happened," said Mikesell, 55, shaking his head.

And, as far as workers go, all he can do is hope that everyone shows up for their shifts and that maybe today someone will answer the ad he placed in March looking for servers.

So far, he said, no one has shown up to interview for the jobs, which pay more than the $15 an hour progressives have demanded all businesses -- including small ones -- pay employees.

 

Joe Mistick, sitting on the balcony of Cafe Raymond, said the problems small business owners face here in the Strip District are a microcosm of what's happening across the country.

"If it is happening here, it is happening everywhere," said Mistick, former chief of staff to two Pittsburgh mayors and current law professor at Duquesne University.

There are 30.7 million small businesses in the United States, accounting for 99% of all American businesses, according to data collected by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

And a lot of small businesses in America are facing a crisis right now that stems from a perfect storm of problems: a short-handed workforce, a broken supply chain and inflation that is very real, despite President Joe Biden's dismissal of it as "temporary."

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