A Different Kind Of Florida Man

“Florida man” has become a comedy label, a phrase recognizing the ubiquity of stories about someone from the Sunshine State doing something idiotic or bizarre (but definitely funny).

Business Insider, however, recently had a different sort of “Florida man” story, and it’s worth pondering.

As businesses across the country advertise for workers, as “we are hiring” signs proliferate and every day brings complaints from businesses that tell us they are struggling to find employees, a Florida man decided to test their claims. He submitted at least two applications every day in September, taking care, as he told the magazine, to apply only for positions for which he was qualified.

Joey Holz had watched as business after business complained that the availability of government stimulus money was keeping workers at home and out of the job market. The complaint–and the attribution of the scarcity to government largesse–“was so ubiquitous that he joined a ‘No one wants to work’ Facebook group.”

He said he found it hard to believe that government money was keeping people out of the labor force, especially when the end of expanded federal unemployment benefits did not seem to trigger a surge in employment. The expanded benefits ended in September, but 26 states ended them early in June and July.

“If this extra money that everyone’s supposedly living off of stopped in June and it’s now September, obviously, that’s not what’s stopping them,” he said. Workers have said companies struggling to hire aren’t offering competitive pay and benefits.

So Holz, a former food-service worker and charter-boat crewman, decided to run an experiment.

Holz spent a month applying for jobs, mostly at businesses whose employers had been vocal about a lack of workers . He kept track of those applications in a spreadsheet. After submitting 28 applications, he had received exactly nine email responses, one follow-up phone call, and one interview. That interview was with a construction company that had advertised a full-time job focused on site cleanup paying $10 an hour.

But Holz said the construction company instead tried to offer Florida’s minimum wage of $8.65 to start, even though the wage was scheduled to increase to $10 an hour on September 30. He added that it wanted full-time availability, while scheduling only part time until Holz gained seniority.

None of the companies that bothered to respond were paying over $12 an hour.

On September 29, after submitting 58 applications, Holz posted to Twitter about his saga, saying, ” y’all aren’t desperate for workers, you just miss your slaves.” The post went viral.

Holz acknowledged that his results may not be representative of the larger labor challenges in the country, since his search was local and targeted the most vocal critics of stimulus spending.

Holz is actually employed, and he noted that–despite the media focus on businesses that say they are struggling to hire–his own boss had experienced no staffing issues during the pandemic.

“Nobody leaves those positions because he takes care of his people,” Holz said, referring to his boss.

There is a larger lesson to be learned from the experiment run by this particular “Florida man,” if employers are willing to learn it. Research by the Economic Policy Institute confirms that lesson.

The author of the linked article concedes that, in a large and complex labor market like that of the U.S., there will periodically be pockets of bona fide labor shortages. But the article goes on to confirm “Florida man’s” conclusion: a far more common reason for such shortages is the reluctance of employers to pay enough to attract workers. “Employers post their too-low wages, can’t find workers to fill jobs at that pay level, and claim they’re facing a labor shortage.” A more precise formulation would be “I can’t find the workers I need at the wages I want to pay.”

The EPI analysis also points out that

when restaurant owners can’t find workers to fill openings at wages that aren’t meaningfully higher than they were before the pandemic—even though the jobs are inherently more stressful and potentially dangerous because workers now have to deal with anti-maskers and ongoing health concerns—that’s not a labor shortage, that’s the market functioning. The wages for a harder, riskier job should be higher.

“Florida man” proved the point…


  1. Recently I detained a hurried Amazon delivery person for conversation about her job and pay scale. Asking if she got $15/hour, she responded better than that ($17-$18), but owned that she had given notice and was going back to healthcare. In nursing home care she could make $20+hr./hr and only work weekends.
    Sheila, thank you for all the conversations you foster.

  2. And our state representative just proposed that more of the stimulus dollars be given to struggling small businesses that can’t find workers….

  3. The complaints from businesses also proves the point by the recent Nobel Prize winning economists. Higher wages create a more stable workforce. BUT, the Republican economic model, under which most of these whining businesses operate, calls for LOW wages and NO other benefits. The great axiom in project management reads something like this: For every dollar invested UP FRONT on the project, you avoid spending TEN dollars in rework or repair costs down the line. The same applies to paying employees and treating them with dignity. BUT Republicans will NEVER accept that axiom, because they’d lose one of their main whining points aimed at Democrats.

    In short, Republicans have NO intention of governing and NO interest in labor’s plight.

  4. I think “Florida Man’s” theory, or gut suspicion was accurate. If he pursued his quest to see if those same employers’ advertising jobs were also receiving PPP monies from the federal government, I would add that.

    The US Chamber had done many incredulous things, so organizing a Help Wanted campaign when help wasn’t needed or desired would not surprise me. They also coordinated the killing off of unemployment early by red state governors. But, as Holcomb found out, that was against the law.

    The governors did it because the unemployment monies were packaged in block grants. They forced workers off unemployment and then used that money for other projects.

    As we’re beginning to see from all the smoke cover provided by the Mainstream Media, workers are resigning at record levels, and #Striktober is trending on Twitter. During a town hall the other night, Biden slipped that he would use the National Guard to assist the shipping docks in CA and NJ because the workers are on strike and there is a shortage of truck drivers.

    They are using the military as scabs. Interesting. Methinks the oligarchs are losing control.

  5. I propose a bill that would require every CEO or equivalent to work for one month at the wage of the company’s lowest paid worker. I can just about guarantee that wages would increase.

  6. I lived in Pasco County Florida from 1994 to 2001; an area popular with retirees due to lower taxes and prices and located on the Gulf of Mexico. Pasco County published a free weekly newspaper which actually contained news and a section for retirees who didn’t want to laze around but offered their qualified maintenance and repair skills at reasonable prices. I used a number of them for a number of needs; always satisfied with their skilled work and their charges. We both benefited. They were, of course, of my generation and older who grew up with and continued to live by a strong work ethic.

    I believe the lack of workers is due in part to the younger generations who want easier working conditions and higher wages. My current lawn care here in Indy is done by a 70 year old Post Office retiree who also works part time delivering car parts to smaller repair shops and when his lawn care work ends he begins a 2nd part time, temporary job at the Post Office. More proof it is a generational problem in many cases lacking workers.

  7. Thank you for posting a more in-depth background on what really happened with these job applications. I saw the original story posted on facebook and as a former job placement counselor I had a gut feeling there was more to the story. Once again, facebook users misrepresenting and nothing gets done to make a reader aware that ALL the details are not in this particular post.

  8. Indiana and Florida are tied in job quitting data — tied at 3.5% of workforce. This according to Bureau of Labor Statistics published 10/23/21 in Wapo.

  9. I’m with Robbie. I think there has to be more to the story. The notion that all these employers are putting up “Help Wanted” signs but not wanting to actually hire someone seems like conspiracy nonsense. I’ve talked to a number of employers and they are desperate to find people and hiring pretty much anyone who comes in the door for these less skilled jobs. Many have stopped drug testing and checking criminal backgrounds.

    JoAnn, as far as the Amazon worker, I have no doubt that person makes $17 or $18 an hour. Amazon has always paid at or above what other warehouse operations pay and offer great benefits. Amazon’s problem has always been the absolutely horrific working conditions within their warehouses. That comes from a corporate philosophy spawned by Bezos that people are naturally lazy. Amazon constantly monitors every employee’s performance and sanctions them if some metric is not met. Employees, fearful of not meeting that metric, sometimes don’t feel they can take bathroom breaks, choosing instead to do their business in the rows of stored merchandise. They also take shortcuts on safety because they’re trying to make certain quotas because they will be written up or fired if they don’t.

    One final word about Amazon, a few years ago Jeff Bezos pledged to raise minimum pay at the Amazon warehouses to $15. (Actually, many workers were already at $15 an hour.) But at the same time, Bezos took away from the workers very lucrative performance and attendance bonuses that were worth a heck of a lot more than a $1 or $2 higher hourly wage. The stunt worked. News reports often just detailed the increased hourly while being oblivious to the lost bonus pay. So Amazon got away with paying employees less while getting a PR bump for raising employee wages. Even Sen. Bernie Sanders congratulated Amazon on raising pay, apparently oblivious to the fact Amazon had actually lowered pay.

  10. I would add that here in Indianapolis, there are a ton of new jobs paying over $12 an hour that are open.

    Sorry…I also misread Robbie’s comments. I do, however, believe there is more to the story.

  11. “Younger generations who want easier working conditions and higher wages”. What’s wrong with that? Maybe the whole “work ethic” idea ranks up there with “manifest destiny”.

  12. I’ve seen several stories of this bait and switch some employers have engaged in as they look for workers. No wonder they can’t find help or maintain a full staff. It’s a bit interesting, maybe even humorous, to watch the workers gain bargaining power while the proprietors whine.

  13. One of the goods and services that Republican entertainment media supplies their consumers is an endless free supply of things to fear and whine about and reasons as to why they are always the fault of Democrat politicians and never corporate bosses or Republican politicians. (Actually, they are not free, consumers have to expose themselves to endless advertising which emphasizes that nobody ever has enough of anything.)

    That has become the drug of choice of Republicans.

  14. I wish there was a way to share this with companies whose poor service is excused with a reply like “we are short staffed because nobody wants to work” explanation. Big companies are explaining to their work force that they have to work harder because their fellow citizens are lazy and don’t want to work! I want to scream back at the employee….WAKE UP! You are working for slave wages and the company is taking advantage of you when you offer this excuse for your poor service!

  15. Yes there is more to the story of the worker shortage. Hospitals report they are facing dire shortages in nursing staff. There’s more to that story, for sure. Nursing is very hard work, as we all know. In 1973, I worked midnight’s at Methodist hospital. We had 51 patients. I was the charge nurse. I worked with an LPN who administered the meds, and an aide who preferred to sleep instead of work. On a surgical unit where I passed meds, I was on my feet all night long. I got 30 mins for a “lunch” break. I was paid around 6 bucks/hour. Half the time when I worked at St. Vincent’s, I received no raise. They had merit raises, no cost of living raises. I topped out of my wage scale fairly quickly because I got such good evaluations. In 2003 Ascension cut 90% of their mental health and addiction services because we were in the red, and I lost my job. They had huge assets as a corporation and could have continued to support our treatment centers. This is the sort of corporate greed that has created the “worker” shortage.

    Small businesses often cannot pay as high a wage as the larger ones, let alone the monopolies like Amazon. They, more than anyone, are probably struggling with finding workers because they do not have the resources to offer the same benefits and salaries. There is a family owned Greek restaurant I frequent that faces that challenge.

    Large businesses and corporations that have gotten away for years with stagnating workers’ salaries are now facing a reckoning with an angry work force that is sick and tired of being paid so poorly while CEO’s and the boards of major corporations care for their shareholders more than their employees. This is one of the reasons, if not the biggest reason, that we have severe wealth inequity in our country.

    I hope that the pandemic truly leads to an increase in wealth for workers in this country and a permanent rebuttal to the trickle down economics of the GOP. It is long overdue.

  16. Let’s not forget the $billions of PPP “help” that went to large companies who grifted the rules – tax money from some of the folks now out of work.

  17. Jan 2; there is nothing wrong with wanting easier working conditions and higher pay but…they are not the jobs that are open and being advertised. That old adage that “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” is still true.

  18. Or, it could just be that Americans have no idea how hard other people in the world work, and how little they expect.
    We’re being outcompeted. Slavery isn’t dead everywhere. Child labor, and lower wages are everywhere, but our media won’t show it, or we might buy less stuff.
    Smaller houses, less polluting travel, smaller cars, mass transit would help.
    Yes, I do all that.

  19. I have to agree with Joe Manchin. We have a problem of people becoming dependent on entitlements. Joe Manchin and other people in the energy business along with a slew of others are totally dependent upon their entitlements — and they do believe they are entitled. They set the rules that workers deserve a few crumbs for their labor, while the “entrepreneur” gets the more than the lion’s share of the wealth that those workers created.

    I learned at a young age that we live in a divided world. Welfare for the rich and Social Darwinist “free markets” for the rest.

    I remember working for a company that went through a few CEOs. Each time, the search REQUIRED that the person already be the CEO of a medium to large corporation. A person who demanded a high salary, expensive perks, and a golden parachute. No mere VP on the rise would be considered. The company ended up going under after multiple rounds of “cost-cutting” layoffs.

    “Workers, should get what they are offered and be happy they don’t live in a third world county.” Once they start to negotiate big-time, and apply the law of supply and demand, boy do we hear the bosses whine.

    It is also interesting – when you read this story, some will say, “I have heard otherwise”, so there must be “more behind the story”, but do they question if there is “more behind the story” of what their friends are telling them?

    Are there workers who complain and are reluctant to work unless they get what they want? Sure, but they don’t get a tax cut “because the ‘wealth makers’ won’t deign to work unless they get to keep all of their profits”. Are those “picky” workers the cause of the “labor shortage”? I highly doubt it.

    Another great post, Sheila. Thank you.

  20. It’s interesting that a business man here in Florida offered minimum wage for employees and said no one responded. He then raised his wage offer to $15.00 an hour and had more than 100 responses. He hired the workers at $15.00 an hour, did not raise his prices, and said that the company productivity increased and he is making a bigger profit than before.

    It’s about time the employer side truly cared about his workers and pay them a better wage, although, in my mind, it’s not a “living” wage, but it’s better than that which it has been for too many years.

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