The covid-19 pandemic required many hotels, restaurants, theaters and sports venues to close their doors, at least temporarily. Many were forced to furlough longtime employees. As they gradually reopen, will they call these loyal workers back to service – or take advantage of today’s depressed labor market to hire lower-paid replacement workers?
A recent WORKERS SPEAK OUT online panel discussion bringing together hotel workers and union representatives from Chicago, Boston and Baltimore revealed a range of responses, and a national movement to create “right to recall” laws that would require reopening employers to offer furloughed workers their old jobs before hiring off the street.
Justice would seem to require that firms gearing up after a pandemic interruption recall the career employees whose labor helped the employer build the firm in the first place. But in the absence of laws requiring this, the actual behavior of firms is hit-or-miss and often depends on the power of the workers and their union to secure fair outcomes.
In a striking contrast, participants in the panel heard from two Chicago-area hotel workers, one protected by a union contract and one who was not. Adrian Aguirre, a bartender at the Omni Chicago, had successfully organized in a union with his co-workers and secured a contract with two-year recall rights in the event of a layoff. Carlos Perez, a houseman employed at the Hyatt Century, has no union. The Hyatt told all the furloughed workers they were fired, and has hired replacements from a temp agency.
This is why the hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE is working across the country to pass city and state laws protecting workers’ “right to recall.” Readers of this newsletter will be familiar with the situation in Baltimore, where CLN and Catholic social ministry leaders recently organized an appeal to the Mayor to sign two “right to recall” bills approved by the City Council. The legislation would protect ALL hospitality workers in the city, whether they belong to the union or not. The CLN is working with the union in other jurisdictions to pass similar initiatives.
CLICK HERE to view a recording of WORKERS SPEAK OUT on Right to Recall after the Pandemic!