For immediate release
March 18, 2020
Hospitality Workers Union UNITE HERE on Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic: “There Needs to Be a Bailout of the American Worker”
Click here to listen to or download a recording of the press conference
NEW YORK—Today, leadership from across UNITE HERE discussed the unprecedented economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on workers nationwide in industries as diverse as airlines, hotels, and food service. Leaders called on Congress and local elected officials to do more to step up for all workers in face of this crisis.
UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor:
“There needs to be a bailout of the American worker, not just a bailout for American industry. Our industries have been devastated by this current crisis, which has essentially reduced our union to about 10% of what it normally is. UNITE HERE expects as many as 80 to 90% of our 300,000 members to be idled for an indefinite period of time due to COVID-19-related shutdowns, cancellations and closures. We have vast numbers of workers in the hospitality industry across America who are potentially losing jobs through layoffs. Workers face potential loss of their health care, they will require food security assistance, they’ll face housing insecurity. Workers generally still don’t have sick leave available to them. All of these issues must be addressed immediately. Hope is not a strategy. We need a plan of action. This is the time for Congress and for the White House to act. The American worker must be the top priority in this recovery.”
Anand Singh, President of UNITE HERE Local 2 in San Francisco:
“The impact of the coronavirus, beyond the obvious health impacts, has been devastating for our members and the tourism industry as a whole, with tens of thousands of working people here—already bludgeoned by an affordability crisis—facing a very uncertain future.
We are meeting with employers to protect workers’ health and jobs. It’s essential for the safety and well-being of workers, the guests they serve, and the future of San Francisco’s tourism industry that workers have health care at a time they need it most and that their livelihoods are protected. Our members are acutely aware that industry executives lobbied Donald Trump yesterday for $150 billion in federal assistance. With that as a backdrop, we continue to press our employers to commit to their employees. We believe the real metric of a company’s success during this downturn ought not to be the value of its stock, but whether or not it delivers for its employees and impacted communities in real and measurable ways.”
Erik van Rossum, President of UNITE HERE Local 8 in Seattle and Portland:
“Already, before this health care crisis, Seattle’s hospitality workers were enduring a housing crisis. The cost to live in Seattle has skyrocketed, and workers often need to work two or three jobs just to survive here. Now with COVID-19 sweeping the city, Local 8 members are losing their hours and, as a result, their paychecks. Today we’re sitting at 10% hotel occupancy, which really means 90% of the rooms are vacant. Workers are already concerned with how they are going to pay April rent.
“We’ve been engaged in conversations with the industry about environmental standards, maintaining healthcare during this time, making sure there are no permanent cuts, and making sure the safety of workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis is the first thing they do. This a public health crisis. In this crisis, we are calling on hospitality employers to step up and make sure that Seattle’s economy works for everyone.”
José Maldonado, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 100 in New York and New Jersey:
“Our members have endured bad times together in the past. In every one of those challenges, we worked together, and our union was stronger when we made it to the other side. We will do that again in 2020, but this time the challenge is greater than ever.
In our airports, workers are at high risk for exposure to the virus, yet many do not get health insurance through their jobs. We call on all state elected officials in New York and New Jersey to pass the Healthy Terminals Act to protect our airport workers today and in the future. Workers will also need the full support of Federal and State governments and airport authorities. Most importantly, the workers who are laid off need their employers to do their part and continue to pay wages and make medical insurance contributions until all the jobs come back.”
Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer of Culinary Workers Union Local 226:
“Governor Sisolak has ordered that Nevada casinos are closed effective midnight on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020. The Culinary Union supports the decision made by Governor Sisolak to protect working families in Nevada. Health and safety are priorities as we face this global crisis. Governor Sisolak’s order today is necessary in protecting Nevadans, workers, and customers in the fight to contain the spread of Covid-19.
“We appreciate what has been implemented so far by MGM Resorts International, Wynn/Encore, and Cosmopolitan properties. The Culinary Union demands every Nevada employer pay all of their employees (including part-time workers) and extend healthcare benefits.”
Wendi Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355 in South Florida:
“This pandemic hit Miami at the height of our busy season while Spring Break was in full swing. We’ve gone from full employment to closed casinos, stadiums, and restaurants and bars. Thousands of servers, bartenders, and housekeepers have been put out of work or have had their schedules drastically reduced. Miami is expensive enough for low wage workers in the best of times. We are now facing a health crisis if these workers lose their insurance and, without immediate financial relief, we will face evictions and an increase in homelessness.
“We need to change the unemployment process in Florida, and we need the federal government to put money in the hands of workers immediately. Right now, filing for unemployment is an extremely difficult and lengthy process that leaves many unable to qualify or complete the application because the website is crashing or in-person locations closed down. Florida has a one week waiting period to qualify for benefits. That must be waived immediately. It then takes nearly a month or more for funds to be released. Workers can’t afford to wait this long to take care of their families.”
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.