The pandemic has spurred a national worker justice campaign called “right to recall.” Its premise is simple: when employers reopen after a pandemic-driven closure they should offer their furloughed employees their old jobs back. The hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE has been leading efforts to promote “right to recall” laws in cities and states across the country, and victories are beginning to stack up, including recently in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC.
Why hotels? Workers in the hospitality industry – hotels and restaurants – were among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Business and leisure travel alike ground to a crawl, and dining establishments were shuttered for extended periods. Workers with years and even decades in the industry are hoping that as vaccine distribution enables their employers to scale up operations they will be recalled to work – but some firms are threatening to hire cheaper replacement workers instead.
That’s why UNITE HERE has asked city councils and state legislatures to enact “right to recall” laws, and the Catholic Labor Network is organizing solidarity with these workers in the Catholic community. The campaign first took off in California where cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland passed “right to recall” ordinances. Recently wins have been stacking up in the Mid-Atlantic region. On Dec. 7 the Baltimore City Council passed a right to recall bill, overriding a veto by outgoing Mayor Bernard Young. On Dec. 10 the Philadelphia City Council passed right to recall. On Dec. 15 the DC City Council unanimously passed a similar bill that is headed to the Mayor’s desk for signature.
Right to Recall has had a more difficult time at the state level. California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a state right to recall law despite appeals from Jesuits throughout the Western Province (Newsom is Catholic and was educated at a Jesuit university). Similar state efforts in Massachusetts and Connecticut have come up short.
We at the Catholic Labor Network believe every successful business enterprise is the result of a partnership between labor and management. Right to recall laws do not require employers to hire workers when they don’t need them, but justice requires that employers who are reopening after interruption by the pandemic offer available positions to the employee partners who helped them build their business in the first place. The Catholic Labor Network will continue to support this important movement as our economy recovers from this terrible illness and recession.