On May 11, hundreds of members of UNITE HERE Local 355 in Miami, Florida, joined together with community leaders, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, and UNITE HERE International President John Wilhelm to commemorate the recent tragedy in Haiti and to stand up for economic security for Haitian-American workers. UNITE HERE members discussed the impact of the Haitian earthquake on their families and themselves, and called on South Florida’s employers to raise standards for all workers.
Following the earthquake in Haiti, Local 355 embarked on a fact-finding survey of Haitian-American members. The survey revealed that Haitian-American members of Local 355 send an average of almost 30 percent of their wages back to Haiti to support their families, and that they feel that improved wages and benefits would most help them to assist their families in Haiti. Members also identified federal immigration reform as a high priority, citing the need to reunify and stabilize their families.
Rolande Richardson, a Local 355 committee member and worker at Delaware North Companies at Ft. Lauderdale Airport, saw the survey results as a call to action: "The earthquake in Haiti was terrible, and many of my co-workers lost family members, but the reality is that we’re also struggling here in the U.S." She added, "We send money to support our families, but we need to be able to support ourselves also. We need to get our churches and communities more active in the day to day struggles of all workers. Rebuilding our life here will help rebuild Haiti."