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Cape Cod Worker Shortage

This article is more than 11 years old.

The beautiful weather over Memorial Day weekend drew throngs of tourists to Cape Cod, but hotels and restaurant owners stressed about their ability to handle the high volume of visitors.

As Bianca Vazquez Toness reports, some Cape Cod businesses have scaled back their services because of a worker shortage.THE BEAUTIFUL WEATHER OVER MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND DREW THRONGS OF TOURISTS TO CAPE COD.... BUT hotels and restaurant owners stressed about their ability to handle the high volume of visitors. as bianca vazquez toness reports, some cape cod businesses have scaled back their services because of a worker shortage....


BIANCA VAZQUEZ TONESS:The labor shortage is the worst at the very tip of the cape in Provincetown.

JOHN YINGLING: This is like a place where only rich people live, not even police and teachers can find a place to live.

TONESS: John Yingling owns Bubala's By the Bay, a restaurant on Provincetown's main drag. Like many of the business owners here, Yingling staffed his kitchen and dining rooms with Jamaicans. For years Jamaicans have come here with special guest worker permits called H2-B visas.

YINGLING: The H2-B people are willing to live in like fairly crowded conditions for like a couple of months during the season. They usually work like two jobs. They save money, sometimes they go back with like $10,000 which is a lot of money.

TONESS: Yingling's 30 Jamaican workers couldn't come back this year because the visa quota was exhausted and the government didn't grant the businesses an extension as they have in past years. That means some 7,000 workers from all over the world couldn't come to the cape.

Yingling had to open Bubala's two weeks later than usual. He's operating with a reduced crew and reluctantly showed me the kitchen.

YINGLING: You're in the doorway of the kitchen.

TONESS: How many people are working in here?

YINGLING: Oh, probably about 20

TONESS: What are you doing?

YINGLING: Cooking, prepping, washing dishes...

TONESS: Yingling said there are enough people in the kitchen.

YINGLING: But they don't know what they're doing. So they're banging into each other, you know...When you looked into there you could see it looked a little chaotic. When we have our regular people in there, it looks organized, cleaner. More together.

TONESS: Yingling admits it takes twice as long to get a hamburger. Visitors complained about slower service. They may have also noticed reduced menus, and higher prices.

Down the street from Bubala's, The Crown and Anchor Restaurant, hotel and nightclub is one of the largest employers in Provincetown. Fourteen Jamaican workers didn't return to the restaurant this summer, so the owner had to do away with breakfast. The restaurant raised wages 5 to 10 percent to attract workers and retain the people they had.

TONESS: Continuing down Commercial Street in Provincetown, The Lobster Pot is a family-owned restaurant known for its giant lobster plates. Chef Tim McNulty says the restaurant lost 35 of its Jamaican workers.

TIM McNULTY: They're like friends and family to us. And they have been here for anywhere from like ten to 15 years. We've grown together and we've built a business together.

TONESS: McNulty made up the difference by hiring residents from 40 miles away. Many of them have never worked in a kitchen before.

McNULTY: I expect they'll get through the season, but I don't know if any will be back next year.

TONESS: McNulty says he hopes to get his Jamaican workers back. And so does John Yingling from Bubala's Restaurant...He says he wouldn't have been able to expand his business if it weren't for his loyal Jamaican workforce.

YINGLING: You become dependent on running your business a certain way and then when you can't do it that way it's a problem.

This program aired on May 28, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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