Plenty of jobs; few workers

Stop & Shop says it needs 100 new employees.

Stop & Shop says it needs about 100 more workers for the Vineyard, but there aren't many bodies to go around, according to Island business leaders.

Stop & Shop says it would like to hire 100 new part-time employees for its Edgartown and Vineyard Haven stores. 

Other Island business owners are saying — good luck with that.

In a press release, the supermarket giant said it needs about 500 year-round and seasonal employees on the Cape and Islands. Stop & Shop is offering up to $17 per hour, and has housing available on the Vineyard for employees 18 and older.

Maria Fruci, a spokeswoman for Stop & Shop, said the need for more employees can be directly tied to a shortage of foreign workers. “We typically hire associates during the summer high season, however, there is a greater need this year due to the lack of seasonal workers on visas,” she wrote in an email.

Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s, said there are no bodies on the Island to fill those jobs. If there were, he’d hire them to help his exhausted staff members, who are working as many as 60 hours a week.

“We have customers,” he told The Times. “We need workers and product.”

Bernier said the struggle to get merchandise continues. “I haven’t had one case of Bounty paper towels in a week,” he said.

There are enough people on the Island that it would make sense to open the up-Island Cronig’s, which has been shuttered for four months since the pandemic arrived in the U.S., but Bernier doesn’t have the workers or the product to open it. So it remains closed as Bernier concentrates on the Vineyard Haven store and tries to keep his employees’ spirits up.

Cronig’s continues to remain closed on Sundays to give employees a chance to catch their breath.

Stop & Shop might have to reduce hours because there just aren’t enough workers on the Island, Bernier predicted.

Typically, Bernier would have up to 16 workers on either J-1 or H-2B visas working in his stores. This year he has one.

Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, said it’s always been the case that the Island has more jobs than it has bodies, but it’s exacerbated by COVID-19 and the limits on bringing in foreign workers. “Historically speaking, Martha’s Vineyard has thousands more jobs than we have workforce to cover [them],” she said. “We do bring people from off-Island, either J-1 or H-2B visa workers — that’s absolutely a direct impact.”

There are also fewer families coming to the Island to vacation and bringing their children looking for summer work. “In the 14 years I’ve lived on-Island, we’ve never had a shortage of jobs,” she said. “Anyone who wants to work can work.”

Staffing has also been an issue at the Harbor View Hotel. Owner Bernard Chiu said the hotel has been closely following the state’s guidelines.

“The staffing is a problem,” Chiu told The Times. “We have had quite a few people not report to work for various reasons beyond our control.”

Along with no J-1 visa workers, Chiu said, it’s been difficult even hiring locally. Given the situation, however, Chiu said they’ve gotten some workers from Boston, which has helped “tremendously,” and visitors from around New England have kept business moving.

“It is a very difficult time,” he said.

This year, businesses haven’t had a choice of workers, and they’re just looking to hold on to the ones they have by avoiding illness.

“We have no one walking through the door looking for jobs,” Bernier said. Recently, he attempted to hire a man whose girlfriend works at the store. “He had five or six jobs to choose from. He took the cushiest job,” Bernier said.

Bernier said he really feels for restaurant owners. They’ve made it to the summer season, but how do they make it past September and beyond? “How many restaurants will be open after Labor Day with a few tables and the bar closed?” he said. “They’re making a gallant effort right now.”

Doug Abdelnour, who owns Nancy’s Restaurant and co-owns Noman’s in Oak Bluffs, said even with less seating and a smaller capacity he’s never had a harder time finding staff.

“This is like adding insult to injury,” Abdelnour said. “You see on the news that it’s the highest amount of unemployed people that the country has ever seen and then at the same time you can’t find anybody that wants to work at all.”

Abdelnour also agreed that cancelling the J-1 or H-2B visas has been “devastating” to just about every business he’s talked to. Workers on either visa make up about 20 percent of his staffing at Nancy’s and Noman’s.

“I hope that the combination of there being so many unemployed people and no H-2B visas and J-1 visas that this should solidify the future of that program because every business I’ve talked to can’t find anybody to do the busing, running, dishwashing, all the support staff positions,” he said.

J.B. Blau has decided to keep one of his restaurants closed, even during the summer. M.V. Chowder Co. thrives off the vibe created by the restaurant’s large bar. Without that and only a few tables, it just isn’t worth it, Blau said.

Meanwhile, he’s having a difficult time hiring staff, too. He’s already decided not to sponsor any J-1s this season, but finding others to work has proved difficult, too.

“You take away whatever the number is, 3,000 to 5,000 people, from the workforce. You’re going to have trouble,” Blau said. 

Over the holiday weekend, he put out an urgent plea for dishwashers at one of his restaurants on his Facebook page. It probably won’t be the last time he needs help urgently.

“The number of people looking for work has greatly diminished. We’re doing the best we can,” Blau said. “We have a 16-year-old high school girl working in one place. We used to not hire anyone under 18.”

That’s why even though dine-in is allowed in limited capacity, Blau has decided to concentrate on curbside pickup and outdoor dining.

With fewer employees, there are bound to be delays in service. Business owners are asking visitors to pack their patience along with their sunscreen and face masks.


Reporter Brian Dowd contributed to this report.


  1. No workers? We can all thank Trump, the most incompetent, corrupt and cowardly President in American history.

  2. These businesses knew for the last 3 months they wouldn’t get their cheap overseas labor. They need to pay a decent wage and the workers will come. It’s so interesting that the commenters on this page are always screaming about a “living wage” yet when island businesses don’t provide one they blame President Trump who is limiting the visa’s to ensure Americans have jobs at a living wage. If you don’t have your near slave labor this year you’re probably part of the problem. Smart business people will thrive this year and hopefully we will weed out the ones who abuse cheap labor.

    • Trump knew for 7 months that COVID-19 would knock us to our knees but we’re still without a national response.

      • We all knew, because we were told by medical and science experts, that there’d be 100,000 deaths by May. It happened. We were told that opening too soon would cause surges. We’re at 40,000 new cases per day, with states breaking all previous records. Covid doesn’t care who’s smart. Grocery workers are essential. Trump supporters are not, and neither are they smart for following an idiot who told Americans the virus will just disappear. See what happens next with schools. Trump doesn’t need to stand on 5th Avenue to murder anyone and still have support. He’s responsible for deaths and economic ruin of Americans by simply sitting on his behind and Tweeting, and his cult thinks that’s just fine. Cronigs will never close because they just up their prices. S&S could close one store which would hurt islanders who can’t afford cronigs. I should not be shocked by blind selfishness and stupidity, but the excuses from the trump cultists surpass even my wildest imaginings.

        • Jackie- You always sound like a very opinionated individual who is always unhappy. No individual person created the world we live in. To think so and constantly state it is not a productive way to engage or carry on a conversation.

          • somethings– I wonder what you are talking about when you infer that Jackie thinks one person created the world we live in. She has an opinion about many people who strive to suppress the weak and the poor. She has every constitutional right to complain about anyone that she feels is violating the freedoms of others or is risking the lives of others because they are too pig headed, and are drinking the kool aid of the most incompetent, hateful president we have ever had.
            if you want to engage in a productive conversation, present some facts to back up your opinions.
            Please do better than “Andrew” who makes sweeping statements and when call on it with actual facts reputing his lies, he simply says there are too many examples to document.

          • Yes, Don, sadly, my news was old news. We are over 60 thousand dead per day. So much gets worse and worse even though the guidelines are so simple. And “somethings” are just too obvious, like when a person gets caught lying on these pages, lies about his lies, realizes he’s in over his head, and skulks off these pages entirely. And then, milagro, along comes a new commenter, with a user name that’s never been seen before on these pages, but sounds exactly like the lying person who skulked off. New Person takes the time to register and comment, but only to “lecture” me, of all people and of all articles and subjects to opine about, just to let me know what an unproductive and unhappy person I am. Weird how that happens. This isn’t the first time. Sometimes a BS person will do the same thing–lie, get caught, try to make it personal about me being lonely/bitter/unhappy/whatever because I helped make obvious the fact that liars gonna lie.

        • jackie– I hate to tell you that you are wrong, but there were 61,484 new cases of covid 19 reported yesterday in the U.S
          And for the idiots here who want only to look at the death rate, because they think the rate of new cases is going up because of increased testing,
          Florida recorded it’s highest number of deaths ever from covid 19 ( 120) as well as it’s highest number of hospitalizations (411) yesterday for it’s highest rate ever.
          Tulsa OK is seeing a drastic surge– attribute it whatever you want.
          Protestors outside the trump indoctrination rally, or cult followers inside ..
          Either way, large gatherings of people without mask yelling or cheering are clearly driving this surge.

          • Don and Jackie, I don’t disagree about some of the anger you both have against the current President. I sometimes cringe myself. I don’t question anyone’s right to speak up and about anything. The point of my post was My Opinion is there are some, you both included that I have never seen acknowledge a good thing, a somewhat good thing, or anything good about the President. I find that kind of anger to be sad, and unproductive as a starting point to have a serious conversation.
            As for my name or possibly changing it, I have used the same name for over 10 years, never changed it, and never used another one. In fact, I’ve never hidden behind it. As I’ve stated before on these pages, my name is Joe Alosso if that really matters to anyone.

        • Jackie, thank you for speaking up, you have a lot to offer and hope you continue to do so.

    • If they pay a decent wage they will have to price themselves out of their market.
      The leisure industry is very price sensitive.

    • The Islands immigrant labor for the most part does not come from ‘overseas’.
      They come from this hemisphere, many via Canada.

  3. Raise pay and benefits and give the workers fulltime jobs instead of shifting part time schedules. I know a very able worker who gave up working on the island because of the low pay, lack of benefits, and nobody would guarantee fulltime work and steady schedules. The law of supply and demand–the demand for workers is high, the supply is low, the price should rise. Every island business proclaims this truth when they explain the high prices they charge customers!

    • The Island economy is based on seasonal menial labor.

      Every Island business knows that customers have a limit to their price elasticity.

  4. Thank Trump? Everything is his fault right? How about thanking him for turning the economy around only to have a pandemic andnits response shutdown the world.
    And he is the only 1 of the 2 candidates to turn it around again….if the Left let’s him.

    • Please explain how Trump is responsible for “turning the economy around “? Growth was steadily on an uptrend well before your man took office. The impact of Tax breaks for Americans paled in comparison to the boon to big business, where greater profits resulted in boons to shareholders but not in rising wages. Are you referring to the stock market indices at or near record highs ? Who has benefited from that other than the more affluent populace ? Do you not appreciate the loss of jobs and economic turmoil resulting from your president’s inability/refusal to respond to a global pandemic due to his personal ignorance and narcissistic needs ? Your comment reeks of Fox News regurgitation.

    • Frick, the lack of an intelligent and timely response to Covid is certainly Trump’s fault, therefore he is at fault for the depression our country is in. Responsible leaders take responsibility.

    • Look at most any graph of the economy from after the recession of 08-09 and you will see a steady rise in growth. That growth continued at about the same rate under Trump, except he gave massive tax cuts to the wealthy and big business.

    • Obama turned the economy around after Bush dropped it in the toilet.
      Trump managed to keep the trend lines going.
      Nothing like a robust economy as a starting point.

  5. This is a big problem for nearly every business on the island. Not having the
    foreign workers here has put us all in a jam. I finally found some help but I don’t think we will ever get caught up.
    As mentioned getting product here is also a problem partly due to lack of help to produce it and deliver it.
    I’m thinking this is going to be a problem that is going to carry on into the late season and maybe even the winter months with all the people that will end up staying here and not returning to their winter homes.
    I have heard that there have been a lot of inquiries about people getting their children into schools here.
    I think it’s going to be a challenge trying to sustain and much larger population this winter. There are pros and cons to this if it does happen.
    Time will tell I guess.

  6. Government pays you 600 a week not to work. Hard to compete against that. Just have to wait until it runs out.

      • Its closer to 900 a week because you get your regular unemployment too. Dems are pushing for an extension. I would have jumped at it in my younger days. It would have been time for a career change.

        • Who pushed the $600 a week for the unemployed?
          The same person who pushed the 1200 Trump bucks on everyone??

        • $900 a week is poverty wages on the Island.
          It takes more than two weeks pay for a crappy year round rental.

  7. How about checking the rolls for people on the island who are not working but getting taxpayer funded assistance? Check those numbers, offer the physically and mentally capable people jobs? Is that a fix? or, is it just not done?

    • The rolls are checked.
      Those unable to find work receive taxpayer assistance.

      Who has the jobs for “those” people?

  8. thank you commenter for not being political
    Maybe instead of being so overwhelmed by hate of the president, you could go get a job and help out the local economy.
    OH wait, you already get a check from the trust fund and don’t need to work

  9. What is the current unemployment rate in Dukes county? I recall the MV Times reporting it was close to 26% in May. Would think with that level of unemployment people would be flocking to job openings.

  10. If I made $17 or less living on Martha’s Vineyard, dealing with the general public all day, I’d be disgruntle all day at work.
    Who in their right mind wouldn’t be.
    Reality is if you moved to MV to make $17 an hour then you probably should reconsider your life work choices.
    Haven’t made less than $20/hr here since 2002

  11. The foreign work force is need here for many reasons. A couple big reasons are they are available for most of our season. They are able to start work earlier in the season and stay later than the American kids that get out of school later and go back sooner.
    There are few young people available to work at the end of the summer but we are still very busy and need a work force. They are also here to work and are very reliable. I have had a very hard time finding a reliable work crew over the years when it come to local workers. It seams a day at the beach after a night of partying always over rules showing up for work.
    I hear it all the time people complaining that the foreign workers
    are taking out jobs but in the end they are taking the jobs that most Americans don’t or won’t want to do.
    I know many won’t want to hear that but its the sad truth. I could go in but I’m likely wasting my time here.
    I didn’t plan on mentioning anything political but I have to say many people blame Trump for everything for a reason. I know several people that supported the Jacka$$ in the beginning but are now regretting it.
    I’m praying he doesn’t make it again but I prayed the first time as well.
    Alright go ahead and tear me down I can take it.

    • You are sensible, truthful, and correct, and no one with a brain can tear that down. Local kids do not want these jobs because they interfere with their summer.

      • Local kids do not want these jobs because they are physically demanding and boring.
        Local kids want beautiful people jobs.

  12. If you pay them, they will come.

    If you ask them to work for $13/hour, with CV risk, without benefits or guaranteed pay, they will only come if they would otherwise be working in a depressed country with poverty wages.

  13. Somehow I think most foreign workers will be shunning the ole US of A for a while based on our current pandemic conditions. Europe got it right with ‘stay away USA’ orders.

    • two inch– If I lived in europe and my kid wanted to go to America to work for the summer, I would strongly discourage that. And when they got back , they would have to quarantine for 2 weeks because they would be coming from the most infected country in the world.

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