Hospitality Workers Laid Off During Pandemic Want Guarantee They’ll Get Jobs Back

Workers say they should be guaranteed “recall rights” whether or not those are spelled out in a union contract.

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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