Oakland hospitality workers demand for city to intervene, pass 'right to return to work' ordinance

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- In Oakland, hospitably workers are asking for city officials to adopt a "right to return to work ordinance." This ordinance would give priority to those who have been laid off from their jobs.

Behind the chants and honking of a vehicle caravan are the stories of hospitality workers asking for help. It's been three months since thousands of them were laid off and they feel like no one is listening.

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"Every single month that goes by, thought is when? When will I go back to work? When do I go back to normal living? Because right now it's scary. My bank account is pretty much at zero," said Oakland airport worker Leah Taylor.

The same thought goes through Elena Sabay's mind. Sabay is a hotel housekeeper and mother of three who is having to explain to her kids why their food portions are getting smaller.

"I've talked to them and told them about needing to share because there is not enough food and we can't let it go to waste," said Sabay.

Sabay's husband's income is the only one coming in. They are afraid of getting evicted.

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When we asked her if she will be OK to pay rent this month, she answered, (not this month), "Este mes no tienes para pagar? No, no.."

East Bay hospitality workers are asking the Oakland City Council to intervene and help them get their jobs back.

"We're asking for the city council to pass into law the right to return to work, once the pandemic subsides. Prioritize those workers with seniority. That will give workers a sense of hope," said Cherri Murphy, social justice minister.

According to the hospitality union 'Unite Here,' an estimated 14,000 workers in the East Bay could benefit from this ordinance. Oakland City Council member Noel Gallo says it's not entirely up to them.

"We can recommend. I cannot force you to hire an individual. They have union regulations as well. But at this point, as a member of the city council, I will encourage and recommend and put in writing that the employees who were previously working need to have an opportunity to return," said Gallo.

The next step is for Oakland City Council members to vote on this on June 29 . For now, all these workers can do is wait.

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