On August 2, days before the 56th anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, UNITE HERE joined the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival national rally and march to combat voter suppression laws. More than 85 UNITE HERE members joined hundreds of allies in a march from Union Plaza to the U.S. Capitol where they participated in a nonviolent act of civil disobedience. Just as the 1960s Freedom Rides escalated to nonviolent direct action, UNITE HERE built upon the June 2021 Freedom Ride for Voting Rights by returning to Washington, D.C.
Since the 2020 elections, hundreds of anti-voter bills have been introduced in states across the country. Hospitality workers are fighting back to demand that Congress stand up for democracy and end the filibuster, pass all provisions of the For the People Act, fully restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and offer permanent protections, dignity, and respect for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
“Poor people and workers have always had to fight for our rights on and off the job,” said D. Taylor, UNITE HERE International Union President. “This is about working people fighting to defend true democracy where all voices are heard. We are standing on the shoulders of civil rights and labor leaders who sacrificed their lives so we could be here today.”
From the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to this summer’s mobilizations, the civil rights and labor movements have been linked historically in our collective struggle for better pay and equal rights for people of color. Union jobs are crucial to move working people out of poverty and have our communities thrive, not just survive.
Despite facing over 98% layoff rates at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNITE HERE members knocked on 3 million doors in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Then, laid-off hospitality workers joined the team that turned Georgia blue to help deliver come-from-behind wins and Take Back the Senate in the January 2021 Georgia Senate runoff.
“The right to vote is directly rooted in our fight for racial justice. As a Black woman and union member I know the struggle to demand dignity and respect for myself and my community, said Tembi Hove, Banquet Server at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta and canvasser during the Georgia Senate runoff elections. “Despite being laid off during COVID-19, I canvassed to get out the vote. I won’t allow my rights to get stripped away. This is our moment to unite against unjust laws that are putting a direct threat on our lives and livelihoods.”
UNITE HERE is taking action with the Poor People’s Campaign because workers will be treated as disposable unless we have real power. Housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, and food service workers from across the country are fighting back because we are the working people, women, people of color, and immigrants who will be most impacted by voter suppression laws.