For immediate release
March 21, 2020
Facilities in CA and WA already being leased by government agencies as quarantine sites or as shelters for the unhoused as more states consider similar options
SAN FRANCISCO—UNITE HERE, the union representing over 300,000 hospitality workers in the US and Canada, said today that while it endorses the judicious use of such facilities to protect the sick and vulnerable during this public health crisis, government officials must consult with worker representatives before hotels, conference centers, or stadiums are used for emergency operations.
Over the past two weeks, state and local governments have moved to use hotels to house vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 crisis. Hotels in California and Washington are being leased by government agencies as quarantine sites or as shelters for the unhoused. At the same time, officials in several more states are considering the use of conference facilities and stadiums for food production, triage, and other emergency purposes.
“Hospitality workers and their workplaces are an invaluable public resource that can provide much-needed emergency shelters and food production,” said UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor, “This is an opportunity to protect the public health, deliver food and housing, and at the same time offer work to those in the hard-hit hospitality industry.”
But UNITE HERE today urged government officials to ensure that hospitality workers have a voice in the process, to ensure that health, safety, and worker rights are thoroughly protected. Millions of workers are currently laid off at these facilities and deserve the opportunity to continue serving in their jobs when their workplaces are repurposed to the public effort so they can continue paying their bills, supporting their families, and taking care of their health.
“Governments must protect frontline workers and their communities from serious health and safety risks, but also from job displacement,” Taylor continued, “When state and local governments fail to involve unions in planning, quarantine facilities and emergency housing intended to stop COVID-19 could instead become outbreak clusters, and workers’ livelihoods could be threatened.”
UNITE HERE is a labor union that represents over 300,000 members working in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries in the U.S. and Canada.