For immediate release
June 26, 2021
While Republican Senators Continue Attack on Voting Rights, Thousands Marched in Washington, D.C., including unionized hospitality workers from 21 states across the U.S.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—While Republican Senators continue the attack on voting rights, UNITE HERE hospitality workers from 21 states joined Black Voters Matter in a mass march and demonstration in Washington D.C. on Saturday, June 26.
Alarmed by voter suppression laws targeting people of color sweeping the nation, UNITE HERE mobilized hospitality workers by bus from 21 states to D.C. as part of the Freedom Ride for Voting Rights. Today’s action culminates nine days of Freedom Ride actions nationwide as busses have launched from the deep South, southwest and other parts of the country to champion voting rights and democracy reform.
“Voting is fundamental to working people’s power. This is a fight we’re not backing down from—people’s lives and futures are at stake. No one should ever underestimate the determination of the people. We call on Congress to take bold action and deliver the protections we need at the ballot box,” said UNITE HERE International Union President D. Taylor.
UNITE HERE union members are majority Black and Latinx workers who will be the most impacted by the anti-democratic legislation currently moving through state legislatures. Workers have traveled far and long to demand that the Senate pass the For the People Act immediately.
“After losing my job during the pandemic, I joined the political campaign in Arizona. I spent four months, braving the Phoenix summer, to talk to hundreds of voters. Then, I canvassed in Georgia to help elect Senators Warnock and Ossoff. I am also an 18-year Air Force veteran. I didn’t risk my life for this country just to have an outdated Senate procedure undermine my democratic rights. That’s why I came to Washington D.C.—there’s no stopping us,” said Marilyn Wilbur, former worker at Arizona State University.
“I made a long journey from Las Vegas to D.C. to send a message to the Senate that we’re not going to stop. This is not the end of our journey, this is the beginning. We’re going to continue to fight against voter suppression laws because we matter. Black votes matter. Black Lives Matter,” said Kimberly Ireland, UNITE HERE Local 226 bell desk dispatcher at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas.
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 not new to this, we’re true to this,” said Marlene Patrick-Cooper President of UNITE HERE Local 23. “If COVID-19 taught us anything, it showed us that working people will be treated like we’re disposable unless we have real power—that’s why we’re fighting back. I grew up in the South and I’m very familiar with people of color and working people being pushed to take a step back, but we have a light in us that no one is going to take out. We’re not letting anyone take this power away from us.”
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.