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Congress eyes $20B for hotel hiring, but a union says, 'No thanks'

A Here United local says the money will further enrich owners and operators without necessarily trickling down to workers.
Photograph: Shutterstock

A Congressional proposal earmarking $20 billion for the rehiring of laid-off hotel employees has drawn opposition from an unlikely source: A union representing some of the workers who stand to get their jobs back.

A local chapter of Unite Here, one of the hospitality industry’s biggest labor groups, said it wrote to federal lawmakers and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) to express its opposition to the Save Hotel Jobs Act.

Here’s Local 11 asserts that the $20 billion would further enrich hotel owners and operators, whom the group says have already collectively received $13.7 billion in government support. Yet “75% of our members in the hospitality industry remain unemployed,” the local said in its announcement.

The group says it represents 32,000 hotel and restaurant workers in southern California and Arizona. It notes that it clashed with some potential recipients of the proposed federal grants over legislation requiring California employers to rehire furloughed workers before pursuing other candidates. That legislation ultimately was enacted by the state.

“The federal government has given millions in relief to these hotel conglomerates,” Susan Minato, co-president of Local 11, said in a statement. “It is time to put workers first.”

“Any direct payments should go to struggling workers,” Minato's fellow Co-President Ada Briceño said in the same statement.

Opposition to the aid proposal comes as the hotel industry continues to push for direct aid akin to what restaurants were provided through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion pool of grant money. The industry argues that it was one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, and yet has not been awarded the sort of direct aid that the restaurant industry and hard-pressed state governments have been issued by the federal government.

The AHLA says the nation’s lodging industry continues to reel from a sheer drop-off in business travel. It recently issued a statement indicating that urban hotels dependent on corporate expense accounts may need years to recover from the downturn.

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