Hospitality Union Says Up To 90% Of Its Workers Will Lose Their Jobs

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

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Andrew Kerr Investigative Reporter
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A labor union that represents 300,000 hospitality workers said Wednesday it expects upwards of 90% of its members could soon be out of a job due to coronavirus.

The Unite Here labor union represents people who work in hotels, airports and casinos, industries that have been decimated by massive drops in demand due to the outbreak, HuffPost reported.

Unite Here said its lower-bound expectation is that 80% of its workers could be out of a job. If the union’s estimate pans out, some 240,000 to 270,000 hospitality workers would be soon out of work.

“All workers are left with at this moment is an unemployment system that’s overloaded, a sick leave system that may provide checks someday, and rent that’s due on April 1,” the president of a Unite Here chapter in Seattle, Erik Van Rossum, told reporters on a call Wednesday.

The union’s members in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, have already been hit particularly hard. Between 4,000 and 4,500 of the union’s 5,500 members in those cities have already lost their jobs.

At least nine states have announced temporary shutdowns of bars and restaurants to stem the spread of coronavirus. (RELATED: Dr. Fauci Comes Close To Recommending Complete Shutdown Of Bars And Restaurants)

A sign outside of a pub announces its closure due to the coronavirus, COVID-19 in Washington, DC on March 16, 2020. - Stocks tumbled on March 16, 2020 despite emergency central bank measures to prop up the virus-battered global economy, as countries across Europe started the week in lockdown and major US cities shut bars and restaurants. The virus has upended society around the planet, with governments imposing restrictions rarely seen outside wartime, including the closing of borders, home quarantine orders and the scrapping of public events including major sporting fixtures. (Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A sign outside of a pub announces its closure due to the coronavirus, COVID-19 in Washington, DC on March 16, 2020. ( MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, one of the nation’s most renounced restaurant companies, Union Square Hospitality Group, laid off 2,000 employees, or 80% of its total workforce. The company operates 18 restaurants in New York City and two in Washington, The New York Times reported.

“In the absence of income, restaurants simply cannot pay our non-working team members for more than a short period of time without becoming insolvent,” said Danny Meyer, the head of the Union Square Hospitality Group. “In that scenario, no one wins.”

D. Taylor, the president of Unite Here, pilloried the paid leave bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House on Saturday as “completely ridiculous,” saying that it didn’t do enough to help affected workers.

Taylor also said proposals to cut $1,000 checks to displaced Americans are insufficient.

Andrew Rigie, head of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, a lobbying group run by business owners in the hospitality industry, urged the government to enact immediate relief for displaced restaurant workers.

“Our government leaders  must immediately enact an emergency, temporary basic universal income for restaurant workers who have been displaced, and begin implementing a restaurant rescue plan,” Rigie said in an email, the NY Times reported. “We cannot wait.”

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