Posted: Nov 19, 2012 6:43 PM
Updated: Nov 19, 2012 7:01 PM
McALLEN - A local business owner says he faces some stiff competition from the federal government when recruiting new employees.
The business needs full-time employees, but many candidates prefer to rely on government handouts than work a 40-hour week, Palace Cleaners owner Bill Stocker said.
The family owned business started in McAllen in the 1920s.
Palace Cleaners supervisor Ester Gill is part of a dwindling generation of people willing to work.
"I like the job. I like coming to work. I like what I do," Gill said.
Gill works more than 40 hours a week. Her day starts at 5 a.m. and sometimes ends until 6 p.m.
"This was a family business I grew up in," Stocker said.
He said people like Gill are rare these days. His business has two full-time openings, but there are few candidates willing to work.
Gill believes many people think a job at the cleaners is not up to their standards.
"They say that there are no jobs, but there are jobs that anybody can do. They don't want to," Gill said.
Hidalgo County poverty rates are among the highest in the state. Unemployment also is among the highest, yet business owners like Stocker can't find workers.
"I would like to employ people today, full time, that would like to learn a skill and can take it anywhere with them," Stocker said.
"It's certainly not a glory job, and you wouldn't get rich working for me, but it is honest, hard work and one that would be consistent," he said.
"When you come to work for me, you come to work as a minimum-wage person. Once you're trained, then - depending on your skill level - you're paid more money," Stocker said.
The money is the problem, he said. The minimum wage turns people away. He said the government gives people an incentive to stay home.
"I had a woman come in ... she came in and sat down. We visited. She said, ‘Bill, I can only work 21 hours, I can't lose my benefits,'" Stocker said.
"A lot of people are on some form of assistance and if they come to work for us full time, they lose the benefits of that assistance," Stocker said.
"I'm competing against entitlements," he said. "How can I compete with this? I can't provide child care or food stamps," he said.
"The new generation? Some of them ... some don't like to be told what to do. They think they know everything right away," Gill said.
"In here, every day you learn something, even myself," Gill said. She has worked for the business for 43 years.
Gill said she will retire when she turns 80. That will be another position Stocker will need to fill.
Stocker said it will be difficult to find someone who understands the value of an honest day of work.
Stocker also will leave the business soon. His son will take over.