The snow has started falling, the leaves have almost all blown off the trees, our puffy coats are back in rotation, and many of the luckiest servers in town have put in their unemployment claims to start their slow trickle out of town for the off-season. Lucky, in my opinion, because who moves to Jackson to work year-round? Most servers I know definitely did not.
Whether your restaurant closes its doors until December or just slows down and cuts some of your shifts, it’s widely understood in this town that “lack of work” is a valid enough reason to claim unemployment … is it not?
Unemployment claims in the off-season are part of the unofficial Jackson (seasonal) employment handbook, allowing us to hold onto the jobs we love even if they can’t sustain us year-round. If you’re new in town, and you had no idea about this small but helpful financial perk when you got here, then most likely this is how you found out: About midway through the summer, you heard someone in your restaurant casually mention how, when they are in Central America this November, their budget won’t exceed their weekly unemployment check. Your ears perked up. “Your what check?” You couldn’t believe your ears. Suddenly, you understood that all the ridiculously amazing travel plans everyone had been making around you wasn’t because they happened to be trust-funders, it’s because they know how the system works, and now you do, too!
I always thought unemployment was for down-on-their-luck city folk, union workers and the laid-off, unlucky people in our society. I assumed unemployment compensation was just a political talking point and something I would hopefully never need. Well, I was wrong. Upon learning this news, most people immediately have yet another reason to add to their list of why Jackson is winning compared to the last place they lived.
Or, you might be part of the smaller group who I’ve seen judge unemployment claimers that simply don’t get it. Unemployment isn’t taking advantage of the system or just funding our vacations. It’s utilizing the system to work for our unique situation. Most Americans have two weeks of paid vacation annually. Most Jackson Hole hospitality industry people have somewhere between one and three months unpaid vacation every year. It’s a lot harder to budget for three months of envy-inducing vacationing with only nine months of work, including slower tourism in the early and late part of the season. So, we do what we have to do in order to keep the jobs we love. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
Servers, whether you’re traveling abroad, visiting family, mountain biking in Moab or stay-cationing here in Jackson all month long, don’t forget to file unemployment. And to the rest of you who are holding down the fort in the handful of restaurants open all year, enjoy the peace and quiet as well as all the awesome restaurant specials being offered — they are all featured on Dishing’s event calendar. See you in December!