‘You Don’t Expect It To Happen To You’: When Your Job Is Suddenly Gone

Workers say this union hall is usually packed with over 1,000 people awaiting daily jobs for Los Angeles and Long Beach ports — but the shipments from China have been slow due to the coronavirus crisis. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Mario Tama/Getty Images Workers say this union hall is usually packed with…

‘You Don’t Expect It To Happen To You’: When Your Job Is Suddenly Gone

Workers say this union hall is usually packed with over 1,000 people awaiting daily jobs for Los Angeles and Long Beach ports — but the shipments from China have been slow due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Workers say this union hall is usually packed with over 1,000 people awaiting daily jobs for Los Angeles and Long Beach ports — but the shipments from China have been slow due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

When Kary Wayson walked through empty Seattle streets last week, she didn’t realize she was heading to her last shift at work. “It seemed like all of a sudden Seattle itself took a nosedive,” she says. Her city had become an epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Parking lots, typically jammed, were deserted. Shop fronts had handwritten “closed” signs on their windows. The restaurant where Wayson had been a waitress for almost 16 years tried limiting the menu and cutting back hours. Seemingly overnight, the unexpected happened: Offices, theaters and schools closed. Residents holed up at home. Cruise passengers and visitors stopped coming.

The restaurant couldn’t keep absorbing the losses. Wayson became one of many workers around the country — in tourism, food, events, arts, education and many others — thrown into a surreal limbo. Jobless, but maybe temporarily. The new reality for many of them: Applying for unemployment, dipping into savings, searching for new work in the middle of a pandemic. Hoping perhaps to get their old jobs back — but when or if? Nobody knows.

“Two weeks ago things were still slow, but nobody had any idea that anything like closures would happen for anybody,” says Kary Wayson, a Seattle poet who lost her waitress job of almost 16 years. “I don’t question the decision on (the owner’s) part at all. It’s just … the situation.”

Brian Weiss /Courtesy of Kary Wayson

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