Phoenix: Yesterday, activists with UNITE HERE Local 11 and CASE Action entered the fifth day of their hunger strike to urge elected leaders to pass critical voting rights legislation by gathering outside of Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s office to deliver a message—and a cake.
Four helpers accompanied the group of half a dozen hunger strikers in wheelchairs and red sashes to carry the 200-serving cake iced with the message “Voting Rights Now”–an invitation to Senator Sinema to join in the campaigns to secure voting rights. Along with the cake, the Arizona hunger strikers attempted to deliver their handwritten letters to Senator Sinema expressing concern about her inaction on voting rights. Senator Sinema’s staff did not accept the cake or their letters.
“We came here to tell Senator Sinema that we hope she will deliver voting rights for the people of Arizona,” said Marilyn Wilbur, hunger striker with CASE Action and 18-year US Air Force veteran. “No matter what happens, I will continue to fight for the voting rights we deserve.”
“Voting Rights Now” was also the message on banners held by fellow hunger strikers today who took arrest on the steps of the U.S. Senate while the body began debate on the Freedom to Vote: John Lewis Act.
“What these strikers have done to protect our right to vote is creating a generational impact. We are with you for what comes next as we continue to build our beloved community,” said Dr. Jannah Scott of the African American Christian Clergy Coalition.
“I have faith that my sacrifice of going four days without eating has told Senator Sinema and all of Congress that I will keep doing whatever it takes to be on the right side of the history of this beautiful country,” said Irma Pacheco, a hunger striker in Arizona with CASE Action and UNITE HERE Local 11.
In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of laid off cooks, housekeepers, dishwashers, and bartenders with CASE Action and UNITE HERE Local 11 knocked on a million doors to win Arizona for Biden, and delivered two U.S Senate seats in Georgia.
Last year, the Arizona state legislature passed laws that hurt both workers and voters by purging early permanent voting rolls and other harmful anti-voter changes. Since the 2020 election, state legislatures across the country have introduced hundreds of bills that make it harder for working people and people of color to vote.
CASE Action Fund is an economic justice organization dedicated to improving the lives of Arizona’s working families through policy advocacy and increasing participation in the political process
PHOENIX–UNITE HERE Local 11, CASE Action, and Un-PAC today launched a hunger strike outside the Arizona State Capitol to continue to pressure elected leaders in Washington to pass the Freedom to Vote Act.
On day 1, strikers were joined by State Senator Raquel Teran and Pastor Aubrey Barnwell, among others.
Beatriz Topete, an organizing director with UNITE HERE Local 11, said, “It isn’t time to roll back the clock on voting rights–it’s time to move forward! Just yesterday, 40 of our fellow activists with un-PAC relaunched their hunger strike in Washington DC. And today, strikers in Arizona are joining in because we know that Arizonans believe in the freedom to vote.”
Last year the Arizona state legislature passed laws that hurt both workers and voters. Across the country, 400 bills were introduced to make it harder for people of color to vote. In response, UNITE HERE Local 11 and CASE Action went on a 10-day Freedom Ride from Arizona to Washington D.C to draw attention to the attacks on the freedom to vote across the country.
“The freedom that I have spent my life protecting is under attack,” said Marilyn Wilbur, CASE Action organizer and veteran of the US Air Force. “The Arizona legislature last year passed a law that will purge hundreds of thousands of mail voters from the Permanent Early Voter list, and another that will limit the time voters have to fix a signature on their ballot. Our state is part of a national trend to limit voting rights. That is why I joined the hunger strike for the freedom to vote.”
Ari Berrong-Huber, a UNITE HERE Local 11 member at Sky Harbor airport, also shared why he’s fighting for the freedom to vote. “Last August, I joined hundreds of other union members in a civil disobedience in DC. The freedom to vote is a sacred right. It is the way citizens can fight for better education, access to healthcare, and protections during the pandemic. Now I’m joining the hunger strike to call attention to the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We can’t let loopholes and obstructionism stand in our way.”
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of laid off cooks, housekeepers, dishwashers, and bartenders knocked on a million doors to win Arizona for Biden, and delivered two U.S Senate seats in Georgia. Now, those same workers are forgoing food to protect our democracy. Hunger strikers plan to join the King family at Arizona Deliver for Voting Rights mobilization and Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Action on Saturday, January 15, 2022.
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CASE Action Fund is an economic justice organization dedicated to improving the lives of Arizona’s working families through policy advocacy and increasing participation in the political process.
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.
Phoenix, AZ – Nine people were taken into Phoenix Police Department custody after participating in a peaceful civil disobedience outside of Attorney General Brnovich’s office Thursday morning as part of a rally and picket line protesting his relentless attacks on Arizonans’ voting rights.
“We are telling Mark Brnovich, our Attorney General, that we will not just sit by and watch as our rights are stripped away. We deserve real national voting rights legislation and we will do whatever it takes to make that happen,” said Joshua Wells, a community organizer.
On July 1, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in support of Brnovich’s defense of two restrictive voting laws. The decision gutted Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, undermining historic protections against racial discrimination in elections. Additionally, the Arizona state legislature passed a flurry of anti-voter measures at the tail end of the session that concluded last week. One of those bills requires the Secretary of State to provide voter information, including’ date of birth and part of their Social Security number, to a third-party private vendor who could then remove them from the voter rolls.
At the same time, the Arizona legislature took the unprecedented move of removing powers from the Secretary of State and conferring them on the Arizona Attorney General, a move that coincides with the end of Secretary Katie Hobbs’ term. Attorney General Brnovich announced his intention to run for U. S. Senate in 2022 on June 10.
“We have brave freedom fighters here today who are going to demand justice from our Attorney General and demand that he stop attacking the freedom to vote. When you have a complicit governor, a complicit attorney general, [and a] complicit majority-Republican legislature, there’s only so much we can do here today,” said State Representative Athena Salman, addressing the crowd, “We need Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Mark Kelly and President Joe Biden to stand up. We delivered for them and now they have to deliver for us. The number one thing, the foundation of our democracy, is protecting our freedom to vote.
More than 75 attended the action that highlighted the need for the For the People Act – federal voting rights legislation – to protect against the 350+ voter suppression bills introduced across 47 states since January 2021.
The same coalition recently completed a weeklong freedom ride to Washington D.C for voting rights.