Although the pandemic is still dragging on here in Michigan, signs of life are starting to come back in our local economy. That seems like it would be good news for people who were laid off in the early days of the pandemic. But so far, that hasn’t been true for many workers. That’s especially the case for leisure and hospitality workers who work in hotels and for travel and tourism companies in Metro Detroit.

The past has shown us that when we include the workers, that’s when we get it right.” —Nia Winston, UNITE HERE Local 24

Many of these businesses were restricted or completely shut down for large parts of the last year. And as they start to reopen and jobs come back, workers who lost their jobs worry they’ll be left behind. That’s because many don’t have what’s known as “recall rights” unless specifically spelled out in a union contract.

Listen: A Detroit hospitality worker and a union president talk about the call for recall rights.


Nia Winston is the president of UNITE HERE Local 24, a labor union representing hospitality workers in Metro Detroit.

98% of our membership was shut down, laid off, and not working,” says Winston. ”That’s out of 300,000 members. And now 78% are still unemployed.”

Our industry has been hard hit over the years,” she continues. “9/11 for airline workers … hotels amid the recession. … So I’m not understanding why the pandemic is different. The past has shown us that when we include the workers, that’s when we get it right.”

Sheila Washington is a 30-year banquet server at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. She says this situation has put her in a vulnerable place for both her financial security and her health. She had health care for 30 years, and her benefits expired April 9.

There’s a possibility of COBRA. I’m waiting on a letter … In the meantime I have no health care,” she says.

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Senate Bill 93 requires hotels, airports and large event centers to offer new positions to qualified former employees through 2024.

CALIFORNIA, USA — A state-wide policy requiring some hospitality and service industry employers to bring back employees that were laid off for reasons related to the pandemic, was signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom on April 16.

Senate Bill 93 requires hotels, airports and large event centers to offer new positions to qualified former employees through 2024. The business would have to offer 5 days advanced notice to former employees or it could face fines up to $500 per day.

“As we progress toward fully reopening our economy, it is important we maintain our focus on equity,” Governor Newsom said in a statement. “SB 93 keeps us moving in the right direction by assuring hospitality and other workers displaced by the pandemic are prioritized to return to their workplace.”

Industry groups are criticizing the mandate, with some saying the policy will make it even harder for the pandemic-crippled tourism sector to jump start business.

The California Chamber of Commerce along with more than a dozen leisure, travel and tourism groups across the state opposed the policy saying it will interfere and delay re-opening for, perhaps, the sector hardest hit by the pandemic.

Peter Hillan, spokesperson for the California Hotel and Lodging Association, said the industry wants their employees back and are ready and prepared to reopen.

“It’s just a time where we need to expedite that rather than put hurdles in the way,” Hillan said.

Almost all vacation travel ceased during the pandemic as state and local officials implemented policies to prevent the spread of coronavirus and warned people not to travel unless it’s for essential purposes.

California’s hospitality industry lost 24% of its workforce in 2020, according to the California Employment Development Department which handles unemployment claims and tracks labor data for the state.

“The employers targeted under this bill are already bringing back employees who were laid off, as those employees are already trained and familiar with the operations,” the California Chamber of Commerce wrote in an April 12 letter. “In fact, our impacted members who are operating under local right to recall ordinances have indicated they can’t find enough workers to fill available positions.”

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), supporter of the bill, said it’s a targeted approach for a community that was among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“It’s these really big companies that don’t necessarily have that relationship with their workers that they’re worried about… the 55-year-old house keeper, who, you know, without this, doesn’t’ have a lot of career opportunities,” Asm. Gonzalez said.

She said that the hospitality workers were among the first to lose their jobs during the pandemic and that some workers have been without a job for the last year due to the stop in big events.

“While we’re starting to open back up, what we wanted to make sure happened was the same workers who had lost