Image courtesy of CSULB. Podcast by Matt James of CSULB’s Enterprise Reporting in Diverse Communities class.
In this podcast, CSULB enterprise reporter Matt James interviews Long Beach local Sharon Rodas about how her employment status has changed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Rodas shares how the pandemic led to her departure from businesses large and small, and how, in an ironic twist, it led her to a job she enjoys.
A full transcript of this podcast is available below.
Sharon Rodas: This is literally history in the making. Why would you not want to work at a vaccination site?
Matt James: COVID-19 has done nothing but take, for most people. For Long Beach local Sharon Rodas, the pandemic has been both the cause of her unemployment and more recently, her way back into the workforce.
Rodas was working comfortably at a job selling glasses when the pandemic started. She was even able to keep that job when they decided to have her work from home. That didn’t last.
Sharon Rodas: After those three [or] four months finished, they furloughed us and so we were kind of like in this limbo state. One morning I just got a call from my manager and I think I had like five missed calls from him. And I’m like what’s going on, like I was so confused. I’m, like, he kept calling me and then finally I answered ‘he’s like hey like how are you doing? You know, I’ve been trying to reach you all morning’ and he’s like ‘Sharon like I don’t know how to tell you this but like just got news that they are actually going to let go of all their furloughed employees and that includes you.’
Matt James: Rodas found herself unemployed for eight months. It wasn’t too bad at first. She had enough to scrape by with extra government assistance during the early months of the pandemic. That assistance eventually dried up, though. With bills piling up and a little motivation from her boyfriend Ian, Rodas found herself back at work. This time it was at a coffee spot in Manhattan Beach, The Boy and The Bear. Rodas was no stranger to that kind of work. She had been a veteran employee at Starbucks before her job at Warby Parker. Her new job ended up being less than ideal.
Sharon Rodas: It was a small coffee shop. And of course, you know, with COVID things, were definitely struggling, and you could tell. The owners of the shop started questioning their future, just like every other small business over the past year. They had to think about things like ‘are we gonna survive during COVID,’ ‘are we you know we have to cut down stuff again,’ or ‘we have to limit our resources,’ or whatever. With the commute and the pay and the hours and the me not feeling like a priority. It all kind of correlated with me just saying, like yeah, this isn’t the place I need to stay at.
Matt James: Her second time around being unemployed didn’t last nearly as long. In an ironic twist the pandemic actually gave her another shot at finding work.
News anchor (clip from a broadcast): In just a few hours, it’ll start transitioning this mass COVID-19 testing site at Dodgers Stadium into a mass vaccination center. That will happen today, with officials hoping to vaccinate at least 12,000 residents a day…
Matt James: Rodas had friends working at other COVID testing and vaccination sites. It didn’t take too much convincing for her to jump at the opportunity.
Sharon Rodas: The way they were talking about it, they just made it sound so so fulfilling and fun and worth it. People are either getting tested or people are getting vaccinations. Dodgers Stadium is one of the biggest locations that they have, so what better place to start.
Matt James: The many roles that Rodas gets to fill at her new job are a welcome change of pace. They include everything from directing traffic, to providing helpful information to newly vaccinated people. Unfortunately not everyone agrees with the new vaccines.
News anchor (clip from a broadcast): And now to the pandemic, anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters stormed the Dodgers Stadium vaccine super site yesterday, delaying vaccinations there. Now the demonstration angered local doctors who say the vaccine is exactly what’s needed to end the pandemic.
Matt James: Rodas started working at the stadium at the beginning of February. That’s just days after the protests.
Sharon Rodas: My first day, that’s like all they were talking about. My mom was so worried she thought… I guess she was watching the news because she knew I was starting this new job. She called me, she texted me, so did my dad. They were also worried they really thought something had happened to me. Nothing really changed my mind.
Matt James: The job has obviously been a great opportunity, but Rodas sees some areas for improvement. She’s seen some people wait as long as six hours to get vaccinated. She even said that some people have decided to not get vaccinated to avoid the long wait.
Sharon Rodas: My hope is just that we, we continuously learn from our mistakes. And we learn new ways to make this process go as easy as it can be just so more people are willing to come in and get the vaccine. Because at the moment, I do see a lot of people frustrated by the time they get to the front. If we’re all really trying to overcome COVID I think that’s a big problem we need to overcome.
I have never felt so fulfilled in a job before. I just hope that we don’t lose focus of why we’re there. And I just hope that we don’t lose sight of that and we continue putting in our best efforts.
Matt James: Music for this podcast was provided by Purple Planet. Sound effects were provided by free sfx.co.uk.