UNITE HERE Freedom Riders rally in St. Louis as part of a nationwide caravan to demand lawmakers protect voting rights

UNITE HERE FREEDOM RIDERS partnering with Black Voters Matter rallied in St. Louis June 23 to demand passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. – Labor Tribune photo

More than 1,500 members of UNITE HERE Freedom Riders from 21 different states joined Black Voters Matter in a cross-country Freedom Ride for Voting Rights last week to demand the U.S. Senate pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

UNITE HERE members from Las Vegas and San Diego arrived in St. Louis June 23 to rally with members of UNITE HERE Local 74 outside St. Louis City Hall to demand lawmakers protect voting rights at all costs

The UNITE HERE Freedom Riders arrived in Washington, D.C. on June 26, the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides from Washington D.C. through the South.

“UNITE HERE housekeepers, cooks, servers and dishwashers are by majority Black and Latinx workers who will be the most impacted by the anti-democratic legislation currently moving through state legislatures across the country making it more difficult to vote,” said Kim Bartholomew, vice president of UNITE HERE International and president of Local 74 in St. Louis.

“We had a little setback with the For the People Act, but we’re going to do what we always do, which is continue to fight,” Bartholomew said. “When we fight, we win, and we’re going to continue the fight!”

In 2020, despite facing over 98 percent layoff rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNITE HERE members knocked on three million doors in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida, mobilizing the votes of working people and people of color hit hardest by economic inequality and the pandemic. Then, laid-off hospitality workers joined the team that turned Georgia blue to help deliver come-from-behind wins and Take Back the Senate in the January 2021 Georgia Senate runoff.

Local 74 represents workers in hotels, gaming, restaurants and food service, airports and other venues. Ninety-eight percent of its members were laid off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 2021, more than 40 percent remained out of work.

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