For immediate release
June 21, 2021
On Eve of Crucial Vote on Voting Rights Bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Meets with UNITE HERE Freedom Riders En Route to Washington D.C.
With the Senate scheduled to vote tomorrow on the For the People Act, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met today with hundreds of UNITE HERE hospitality workers who are on their way to Washington, D.C. to demand that the Senate pass legislation to protect and expand the right to vote.
“Voting is fundamental to working people’s power,” said UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor. “This is a fight we’re not backing down from—people’s lives and their future are at stake. No one should ever underestimate the determination of the people.”
As voter suppression laws targeting people of color sweep the nation, over 1,500 UNITE HERE hospitality workers from 21 states are joining Black Voters Matter in a Freedom Ride for Voting Rights, traveling by bus to Washington D.C. for a major mobilization on June 26.
Senator Schumer offered words of encouragement to the freedom riders by zoom during their days-long bus journey. “Republicans in state legislatures across the country have swallowed Donald Trump’s Big Lie and are targeting all the ways that poorer, younger, non-white, and typically Democratic voters access the ballot,” said Majority Leader Schumer. “I am proud to stand with UNITE HERE members to fight back against this systematic attack on voting rights. I want to applaud the hundreds of workers participating in Freedom Rides across the country to raise the alarm about these despicable laws. Democrats will continue fighting to protect voting rights and safeguard our democracy.”
UNITE HERE housekeepers, cooks, servers, and dishwashers are by majority Black and Latinx workers who will be the most impacted by the anti-democratic legislation currently moving through state legislatures.
“I did not risk my life during multiple tours in Iraq to come back home and have my elected officials dictate my voice at the ballot box. I am doing my part to protect our country, now it is up to our elected officials to do theirs,” said Marilyn Wilbur, 18-year Air Force veteran, freedom rider and former food service worker at Arizona State University.
Freedom rider and cashier at Delaware North at Fort Lauderdale Airport, Latanya Gavin told Senator Schumer, “Trying to raise a family in Florida is extremely difficult. I’m making less than $15 an hour. We need better protections for working people, and we can only achieve that if working people are free to vote. Florida has passed incredibly suppressive voting laws this year. I won’t stand for that. Voting is my right. It’s my freedom.”
In 2020, despite facing over 98% layoff rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNITE HERE hospitality workers knocked on 3 million doors in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida, mobilizing the votes of working people and people of color hit hardest by economic inequality and the pandemic. Then, they joined the team that turned Georgia blue to help deliver come-from-behind wins and Take Back the Senate in the January 2021 Georgia Senate runoff.
“We’re urging the Senate to take bold action for us and our families. My future is on the line. After losing my job during the pandemic, I canvassed in Georgia to help elect Senators Warnock and Ossoff. We need to keep what we worked so hard to take back. As a Black woman in the South, I know my vote is my voice,” said Tembi Hove, banquet server of 15 years at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
“We don’t want to go backwards. We want to move forward and the only way to do that is by having strong voting rights for all, not just the wealthy elite. Working people need the For the People Act to protect our voice in what goes on in this country, said McKinley Jefferson food vendor at Madison Square Garden for 25 years.
UNITE HERE is the hospitality workers’ union in the U.S. and Canada, representing over 300,000 workers in hotels, gaming, restaurants and food service, airports, and more. Ninety-eight percent of its members were laid off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as of May 2021, over 70 percent remained out of work.