New Haven Hospitality Workers Need Protection to Change the Maps of Inequality
American families have endured nine months of economic instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic. National unemployment reached 14.7%, its highest point since the Great Depression.8 As of September, 2020, 23,500 New Haven residents are unemployed, up from 11,200 at the same time last year.9 Many of these workers are employed in the hospitality industry, which suffered tremendous losses as non-essential travel was limited. So many Connecticut hospitality workers were laid-off this spring that Local 217 launched an unemployment application hotline. Now, as New Haven returns to Phase 2, hospitality workers are faced with continued instability.
The city’s Black and Brown communities are especially vulnerable during this unemployment crisis due to decades of segregation and disinvestment. The effects of redlining and nearly eighty years of discriminatory housing policy continue to shut Black and Brown residents out of opportunity. Over the past decade, community leaders and legislators have fought against this inequality by pushing employers to hire New Haven residents.10 But the pandemic threatens the progress our city has made. If previous recessions are an accurate guide, this crisis threatens to further entrench racial inequality in New Haven. Workers of color are often the first to be fired and the last to be hired.11 We must act swiftly to protect their jobs, their security, and the project of racial and economic justice in New Haven.
Worker recall is based on the simple and fair principle that workers who sacrificed their livelihoods to protect public health should get their jobs back when work resumes. Workers would return to their jobs in order of seniority, as long as they were laid off or furloughed through no fault of their own. By providing stability and security to hotel workers, the ordinance would help ensure that our city emerges from this crisis more equal, not less.