Re: “Should laid-off Tacoma hotel workers automatically get their jobs back when COVID ends?” (TNT, 10/18).
To answer the question posed in this news article headline, let me simply say yes.
In my ministry as a Jesuit priest serving at St. Leo and Sacred Heart parishes, I have had the opportunity to meet with, and pray with, laid-off hotel workers here in our city.
In Tacoma, as in most parts of the country, hospitality and service workers have suffered tremendously from the crushing hardship of being laid off and without healthcare insurance during a worldwide public health crisis, through no fault of their own.
In the US, more than a million hotel workers have been laid off due to the pandemic.
Some among us may be blessed enough to only experience relatively minor inconveniences during the pandemic, either working from home or having the flexibility in our occupations to keep supporting ourselves and our families.
Now more than ever, we’re being made aware of the importance of our moral obligation to care for each other, to show solidarity, to act, and stand with our brothers, sisters, neighbors and friends who have been left vulnerable by the pandemic.
We need to consider who is most at risk. Recall rights for hotel workers are a racial equity issue. We know that service, hospitality and hotel workers in Tacoma comprise more women and men of color than our overall population.
Getting these hotel workers back to their jobs is just, is part of making sure every member of our community is part of our economic recovery and would be a tangible win for equity in Tacoma.
Recall rights for hotel workers also fight ageism. The median age for hotel workers at Tacoma’s biggest hotel is 44. One-third of the workers are in age groups which are at least four times more likely to be hospitalized and 30 times more likely to die due to COVID-19 compared to younger adults.
Some of these workers have devoted 20 or 30 years to their hotel jobs, to the point where it becomes more than a job; it becomes like family.
We can’t stand by and allow hotel owners to use the pandemic to disregard seniority when rehiring workers. This would potentially leave older workers without jobs and health insurance during a pandemic that is most dangerous for them.
Tacoma would not be the first place in the country to pass recall rights for hospitality workers. Los Angeles (City and County), Oakland, Long Beach, Glendale and San Diego have already passed such ordinances.
We have an opportunity and an obligation to act. Join me in calling on the Tacoma City Council to pass recall protections for hotel workers.
Father Matthew Holland is the pastor of two Tacoma Catholic parishes, where he’s served since 2018. Originally from Seattle, he’s a graduate of Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma and later taught social studies and religion there for three years. Reach him by email at [email protected]