Unemployed Latinas in Florida are spending their time canvassing to make sure people vote.
Some people are going back to work; others are living their lives as usual despite COVID-19 cases on the rise—yet Latinas remain unemployed.
Latina workers experienced a massive increase in unemployment between February and April, increasing 15.3 percentage points, according to the Economic Policy Institute. One in five—20.2%— of Latina workers were unemployed in April. By June, the Latina unemployment rate had significantly recovered but remained 10.4 percentage points over its February level.
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Eddis Feliz, a Dominican housekeeper at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, was recently called back to work after months of being unemployed. She went back for one week and was let go once again. As a single mom who’s also assisting her mother, navigating life amid a shutdown has been incredibly hard because she’s out of work.
“I had been working at Fontainebleau for almost nine years,” Feliz said in an interview with The Americano. She said it was challenging to figure out how to fill out her unemployment application.
“They asked me to list all the places I was looking for work, but how can I do that if there’s no work?” Feliz said.
She said the little unemployment money she received was hardly enough to get by, but added, “my family is very united, and we help each other out.”
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Feliz is among the 15% of the US workforce that is made up of Latinas who worked in hospitality and were unemployed during the pandemic. Other industries that suffered job losses among Latinas includes retail and other services.
Maria J. Leira at UNITE HERE!, a union comprised of 34,000 workers in the hotel, casino, food service, and airport industries in Central and South Florida, said in an interview with The Americano that 99% of their union members got laid off during the pandemic.
“Today, a majority of our workforce remains laid off,” Leira said. “They have gone through every difficulty you can imagine, from trying to file for unemployment to having their healthcare cut off. If they are going back to work, they’re leaving once again because they’re getting sick.”
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She said many of her laid-off union members are now canvassing to make sure people go out and vote in the presidential election. Among them are 500 laid-off hospitality workers who commit their time by canvassing or serving as “poll stewards” and conducting voter outreach via phone and text message, and who will also protect voters at the polls during early voting and on Election Day.
“Our union is seriously investing in Florida like we’ve never done before,” Wendi Walsh, political director of UNITE HERE!, said in a statement. “We’re making a vote-by-mail strategy that no one else is doing. We’ve done this in Nevada—we fought, and we won. We have the most committed and passionate canvassers who are fighting for their families.”