UNITE HERE Local 11’s Statement on Right to Return to Work Bill Signed by Governor Newsom
California becomes first state in the U.S to pass historic worker protections
BREAKING NEWS: We applaud Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of the Hospitality Workers Right to Return bill today which guarantees that hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers will have the legal right to return to work when tourism returns.
COVID-19 has devastated the tourism industry. More than a year after the pandemic began, 80% of hotel workers remain unemployed. Dozens of UNITE HERE Local 11 members have lost their lives to COVID-19.
During the worst health crisis in modern history, many hospitality employers–such as the Terranea Resort and Chateau Marmont–terminated workers who had made their hotels successful, without extending their healthcare or making any binding commitment to recall them when the crisis subsides. By discarding their veteran employees when they needed them most, these irresponsible employers left workers in a state of profound insecurity, creating a critical need for right-to-return to-work legislation.
Beginning in May 2020, UNITE HERE Local 11 passed the nation’s first hospitality workers’ right to return to work law in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and elsewhere in Southern California. Similar legislation has since been passed throughout the country, including in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Oakland, and Boston.
Today’s law covers the world’s largest tourism industry. More than 700,000 California hotel, event center, airport concession, and building services workers will now have the right to return to their jobs when the pandemic subsides. This law brings hope and security to these professional service workers and their families.
“I’ve been struggling to make ends meet and was in the hospital for Covid-19 in January. Right now, I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay my medical bills and rent after my young daughter was also in the hospital for kidney failure. I want respect and rights for workers like me. I need to go back to work for my family and this law will help me do that,” said Antonio Rodriguez, who worked as a banquet server at Terranea Resort for 11 years.
We urge other states to follow Governor Newsom’s lead and guarantee the right to return to work to all hospitality workers in our nation.
“We know that the hospitality industry has been decimated by the pandemic, but it’s not the executives who are suffering. Their paychecks continue to come in. It’s working people who are paying the price,” said State Senator Maria Elena Durazo. “Too many times, after times of crises, we see the hotel industry come roaring back while their former workers are left out cold. Thanks to Governor Newsom’s signing of this bill, we are not going to let that happen this time around,”
“Workers need certainty right now as we reopen the state. Knowing they will be offered their jobs back should give hospitality workers a bit of long overdue relief. It’s just the right thing to do,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.
“I commend Governor Newsom for signing SB 93 into law and recognizing that California’s economy cannot recover without its workers. We saw firsthand the economic devastation the Great Recession had on the state’s workforce and during the pandemic, thousands across the hospitality and building services industry have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. In the face of an uncertain economic recovery, this legislation is a necessary yet reasonable approach that will ensure security for an already vulnerable workforce by affording long standing, qualified employees the opportunity to return to their jobs as businesses resume operations,” said Assemblyman Ash Kalra.
“I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing such a historic policy. The Los Angeles Labor Movement is proud to have stood in solidarity with the housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, servers, and airport workers to pass this landmark policy. This is a huge win for workers in California and is an example of what our movement can accomplish when we stick together and fight for common goal,” Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
We are grateful to the leadership and tenacity of our state Democratic legislators, especially Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, Assemblyman Ash Kalra, and Senator Maria Elena Durazo, who valiantly fought for these workers. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, led by Ron Herrera, walked with us every step of the way, and we thank the MLB Players Association, the NFL Players Association, SAG AFTRA and CLUE and Jesuits West for their early support.
We are most inspired and humbled by the courageous room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, and food service workers who lobbied, picketed, and never doubted for a moment that they deserved to return to their jobs.