For immediate release
June 14, 2021
UNITE HERE Hospitality Workers to Join Black Voters Matter in a Freedom Ride for Voting Rights
“We’re not new to this. We’re true to this. Workers have always had to fight to protect our right to vote. We’ll rise up again like we’ve done before, because when we do, we win.”
On the sixtieth anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides from Washington D.C. through the South, UNITE HERE will join Black Voters Matter in the Freedom Ride for Voting Rights. As voter suppression laws targeting people of color sweep the nation, this multi-racial coalition will conduct a voter outreach campaign to protect the freedom to vote.
“UNITE HERE hospitality workers made huge sacrifices to get out the vote and take back our country for the people. We won’t stand by and let racist voter suppression laws move us backwards,” said D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE International Union. “We are committed to protect our democracy so that it is representative for all people, not just a privileged few.”
Launching on June 18, over 1,500 hospitality workers and allies from more than 15 cities across the country will travel by bus to Washington D.C. for a major mobilization on June 26 and stop in key cities for events along the way. The coalition demands that the Senate pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act immediately.
“As a labor union, our foundation was built on fighting back—we’re not new to this, we’re true to this. Workers have always had to fight to protect our right to vote. We’ll rise up again like we’ve done before, because when we do, we win,” said Trinice Dyer, server at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans, LA. “As a Black woman and a union member, my whole history is built on fighting back. Whether slavery, civil rights or in the workplace, workers and people of color have had to fight to protect our rights. In my union we take that power seriously, so Congress can bet that we’re headed for them this time, too.”
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.
“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’m riding to Washington D.C.—there’s no stopping us,” said Marilyn Wilbur, former worker at Arizona State University.
In 2020, despite facing over 98% layoff rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNITE HERE members 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, laid-off hospitality workers 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.
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.