Scores of workers across America have been laid off through no fault of their own, and still many of them are not eligible for federal benefits during these unprecedented times. In Minnesota’s Twin Cities, the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation (MRLF) is organizing to provide support to those workers who can’t get the support they need from our federal government.
Led by President Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou (UFCW), the MRLF is pioneering a new kind of initiative focused on filling that gap. The Twin Cities Hospitality Relief Effort is specifically designed to help laid-off hospitality workers who are being left behind. The labor federation is giving direct one-on-one assistance to dozens of these workers who need immediate help with health care, housing and money to survive.
“A lot of hospitality workers are not eligible for government assistance for a number of reasons: they receive much of their income from tips, they have families with mixed immigration status, they received a combination of wages and 1099 forms, or they worked for many different employers over the course of the year,” Glaubitz Gabiou explained. “These workers come from an industry that was the first to shut down, and they have a very long recovery ahead.”
The MRLF has 16 people trained to provide navigation services, and they are in place to keep the relief effort going. The navigators are doing direct outreach to those who need help the most, and they interact with community partners and government agencies to provide tailored support for each individual. They are a mix of union organizers, laid-off workers and labor federation staff, and many of them are bilingual. Their conversations with the people receiving help also has an organizing component, as the labor federation is promoting union values to these laid-off workers.
“The way that this team of front-line workers is coming together to take care of other workers in this industry is inspiring,” Glaubitz Gabiou said. “They’re helping people negotiate payment plans with their landlords, get access to active food resources and pharmaceuticals, and much more.” She pointed out that they have helped more than 150 laid-off workers and their families—90% of whom do not have access to unemployment insurance benefits.
The MRLF’s Twin Cities Hospitality Relief Effort is operating in close collaboration with its affiliates, including UNITE HERE Local 17, Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 13 and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. The initiative is receiving financial support from the LIFT Fund, the city of Minneapolis, Ramsey County, Minnesota, the Greater Twin Cities United Way, the Minnesota Nurses Association-NNU and UNITE HERE. The coalition recently held an online bingo tournament that raised nearly $5,000. And this funding is being used to support the relief effort and provide $200 cash grants to those laid-off workers who meet minimum standards.
“We have to keep fighting and scraping for people to take seriously the state that all workers are in,” Glaubitz Gabiou said. “It’s not just about surviving right now; we’re working to make sure we recover more resilient in the future.”
This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on May 13, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Aaron Gallant is a contributor for AFL-CIO.