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Virus outbreak decimating hospitality jobs

With up to 90% of members out of work, UNITE HERE calls for ‘bailout of the American worker’


NEW YORK CITY (March 20, 2020) — The leadership of UNITE HERE, America’s leading hospitality workers’ union, is calling on Congress to do more to step up for all workers in the face of the devastating coronavirus outbreak. The union, which represents workers nationwide in industries as diverse as airlines, hotels and food service, expects that 80 percent to 90 percent of its 300,000 members will be out of work due to the COVID-19 outbreak. UNITE HERE members are predominantly women and people of color.

UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor says the crisis calls for an approach directed toward helping workers, particularly those who lose their jobs.

“There needs to be a bailout of the American worker, not just a bailout for American industry,” Taylor said. “Workers face potential loss of their health care, they will require food security assistance, they’ll face housing insecurity. Workers generally still don’t have sick leave available to them. All of these issues must be addressed immediately. Hope is not a strategy. We need a plan of action. This is the time for Congress and for the White House to act. The American worker must be the top priority in this recovery.”

Local UNITE HERE leaders have echoed that call.

“Already, before this health care crisis, Seattle’s hospitality workers were enduring a housing crisis,” said Erik Van Rossum, President of UNITE HERE Local 8 in Seattle. “The cost to live in Seattle has skyrocketed, and workers often need to work two or three jobs just to survive here. Now with COVID-19 sweeping the city, Local 8 members are losing their hours and, as a result, their paychecks. Today we’re sitting at 10 percent hotel occupancy, which really means 90 percent of the rooms are vacant. Workers are already concerned with how they are going to pay April rent.”

He said the Seattle-based union, which represents workers in both Washington and Oregon, is working hard to mitigate the impacts of the crisis on its members.

“We’ve been engaged in conversations with the industry about environmental standards, maintaining healthcare during this time, making sure there are no permanent cuts, and making sure the safety of workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis is the first thing they do,” Van Rossum said. “This a public health crisis. In this crisis, we are calling on hospitality employers to step up and make sure that Seattle’s economy works for everyone.”

TAKE A STAND — You can help these struggling UNITE HERE Local 8 members today by donating to the UNITE HERE Education and Support Fund for Local 8. Donations are used to help local hospitality workers in hardship situations, providing emergency assistance for things like food, rent and utilities.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!