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Should laid-off Tacoma hotel workers automatically get their jobs back when COVID ends?

Tacoma City Council is exploring an ordinance that would require hotels in Tacoma with 60 rooms or more to provide recall rights to workers laid off during the pandemic.

The proposed ordinance, brought to City Council for discussion at a meeting on Tuesday, would sunset in March 2021 unless extended by Council. It would require hotels to:

? Provide written notice to laid-off employees of job positions that become available for which those employees are qualified, and

? Offer available positions to the laid-off employees with the greatest length of service for the hotel.

City Council decided Tuesday to first run the idea through the Economic Development Committee to determine how the ordinance would impact workers and the hotel industry.

“It was sent to EDC because it wasn’t simple and begged for greater vetting and understanding,” said Council member Robert Thoms, who also chairs the EDC. “As we work to schedule discussions on this issue, I truly hope our hotels can effectively and safely reopen and our workers can get back to work.”

The proposal was brought forward by Council member Lillian Hunter after former workers at Hotel Murano, operated by Provenance Hotels, spoke at a City Council meeting on Sept. 22.

The workers sought the Council’s help to implement recall rights, which allow laid-off workers to be recalled to their former jobs when they become available. The workers, represented by Unite Here Local 8, had recall rights in their contracts, but they expired mid-September, they said.

“My family and I have counted on this Hotel Murano for my family’s second income,” Stephen Reeves, a 17-year banquet bartender at Hotel Murano, told City Council in September. “It’s just heartbreaking to hear what we are hearing about Hotel Murano’s desire to rid itself of all the experience that has made this hotel what it is.”

Unite Here Local 8 represents more than 100 workers at the Hotel Murano and is in support of the ordinance, and not just for its own unionized workers.

“We think a hotel recall ordinance is a fair proposition for workers and the industry to make sure workers get back to work as business starts to return,” Maris Zivarts, research director for Unite Here Local 8, told The News Tribune by phone Oct. 13. He added that workers will gather for a vigil at 7 p.m. Monday outside of Tacoma City Hall in support of laid off hotel workers.

Mark Filipini, outside counsel for Hotel Murano, told The News Tribune in a phone interview Oct. 15 that formal negotiations with the union representing the workers could take place in the next few weeks.

“When I talk to the HR director, and others, the employees are really well liked, they’re long-term staff,” Filipini said. “Yes it’s true the recall rights have expired, but I haven’t heard any plan to replace the employees wholesale or anything like that. I think they are an important part of the business.”

The state’s Employment Security Department in June first made public the

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