Hospitality labor union projects up to 90% could lose jobs in coronavirus epidemic

webphotographeer/iStock(NEW YORK) — A leading labor union for hospitality workers said Wednesday that it expects 80% to 90% of its 300,000 members to be out of work due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Workers face potential loss of their health care, they will be food insecure, they’ll face housing insecurity,” Unite Here International President Donald “D.” Taylor said in a call with reporters. “Workers generally still don’t have sick leave available to them.”

The majority of Unite Here’s members are women who tend to work in hotels, airports and casinos — businesses hit hard by government-mandated shutdowns across the country.

Anand Singh, president of Unite Here Local 2 in San Francisco, said its members are facing an “uncertain future.”

“We are meeting with employers to protect workers’ health and jobs,” said Singh. “It’s essential for the safety and well-being of workers, the guests they serve, and the future of San Francisco’s tourism industry that workers have health care at a time they need it most and that their livelihoods are protected.”

Singh, Taylor and other union leaders from across the country said employees in the hospitality industry are facing a crisis and called upon the U.S. government to center relief efforts around workers. Taylor called the emergency relief package passed by the House on Saturday “completely ridiculous.”

“We need a plan of action,” Taylor told reporters. “This is the time for Congress and for the White House to act. The American worker must be the top priority in this recovery.”

Unite Here’s estimation may be an example of a growing number of unemployment cases across the country. Approximately 121,000 Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment since announcing waivers for workers impacted by COVID-19 on March 16, according to the Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry.

In addition, unemployment offices in several cities impacted by COVID-19 are overwhelmed. The New York State Department of Labor announced Tuesday it was “experiencing an unprecedented increase in the volume of calls and web traffic for Unemployment Insurance claim.” By noon, the department received more than 21,000 calls — compared to the 2,000 it received in total last Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the New York DOL said the department is adding staff and will be expanding hours to help address the rapid influx of applicants.

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