For immediate release
December 29, 2020
As political leaders spar over increasing stimulus payment to $2,000, laid-off workers call for long-term pandemic relief; rally followed by food distribution for union members
ATLANTA—On Tuesday, over 1,000 cooks, bartenders, servers, housekeepers and concessions workers held a car rally with Georgia Senate Candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock, calling for change in the U.S. Senate. The rally was held as Democrat and Republican leaders clashed over increasing a second federal stimulus payment from $600 to $2,000, and one week after Congress passed new COVID relief legislation which workers welcomed as a necessary response to the ongoing pandemic but described as “too little, too late.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdown wear on, the Senate runoff on January 5th has major implications for the lives and livelihoods of workers and their families both in Georgia and throughout the country. The American people need a Senate that will work to pass long-term comprehensive legislation that includes job and safety protections, economic relief, and health care.
“For months, the Republican Senate stood in the way of relief legislation that would support workers—among them the 75% of UNITE HERE members in Georgia who remain unemployed,” said Rev. Warnock, “I will change that and work to pass long-term comprehensive COVID relief legislation that includes job and safety protections, economic relief, and health care. And, when we recover from this pandemic, I will continue standing with UNITE HERE and the broader labor movement to support workers’ fundamental rights to organize and work safely. I am in this for the long haul, and I look forward to being a Senator that the people of Georgia deserve.”
The car rally was followed by a food distribution for laid-off hospitality workers, many of whom have been out of work since March. The hospitality industry, which includes Georgia’s hotel, airport, and food service industries, has been among the hardest-hit in the pandemic, and will be among the slowest to recover. Over 75% of UNITE HERE’s members remain out of work, and many struggle with job loss, food insecurity, a broken unemployment system, loss of healthcare, and a pandemic that continues to rage out of control.
“The amount of time it took for both Congress and the President to sign this most-recent pandemic relief bill, and now the squabbling over increasing stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 only underscores the need to end Republican control of the Senate,” said UNITE HERE Secretary Treasurer Gwen Mills, “UNITE HERE is proud to support Rev. Warnock and Jon Ossoff for Senate, because working people are hurting. Our union’s members and workers across the country need legislators who will work for them, both in this time of pandemic and into the future.”
“During COVID-19 I was laid off and left to provide for my 16-year old son,” said Theresa Cross, a Local 23 member who is a banquet server at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, “My checks stopped coming in, but my bills didn’t. How am I supposed to pay my bills and put food on the table with $600 stimulus? That won’t even cover my rent! On top of that, I stand to lose my health insurance coverage at the end of this month. As a cancer survivor I need regular checkup and treatments. Health insurance coverage during a pandemic is a matter of life and death. We want to live.”
UNITE HERE Local 23 is a labor union that represents 3,000 hospitality workers at military bases, hotels and the Atlanta Airport in Georgia. Through grassroots organizing they’ve been able to raise wages and gain crucial workplace protections.
UNITE HERE has over 300,000 members working in the North American hospitality industry. Over 75% of its members are still out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, down from a peak of 98%. During the 2020 presidential election UNITE HERE ran the largest union door-to-door canvassing operation in the United States.