Central Florida hospitality workers stage automobile caravans to raise awareness of crisis


  • Photos courtesy Unite Here Local 362
This story has been updated to reflect both caravans have been organized by Unite Here Local 737.

Turns out it's not just entitled man-children (and the woman who love them) staging automobile protests, these protests can be used for good ends too.

Just over a week ago, Central Florida-area hospitality workers undertook an automobile "prayer caravan" making their way through the Azalea Park and Washington Shores neighborhoods to protest the (very) broken Florida unemployment system. That action was spearheaded by service-workers union Local 737, which represents over 20,000 workers in Central Florida's tourism industry. It had dozens of cars festooned with banners, signs and painted messages about how our fellow citizens are in a state of very real economic emergency.

This Friday, May 1 (May Day), their colleagues in the Orlando Hotel and Restaurant Workers Movement (again through Unite Here Local 737) will switch from prayer to political demands, with their own automobile protest action called the "Seven Demands for FL's Crisis: Hotel & Restaurant Worker Caravan," starting in Kissimmee and heading up into Orlando.

"We are telling Florida's failing government: this is not good enough," says the event's Facebook page. "Governor DeSantis: we deserve more! We demand more! And we will fight until we get it!"
The event begins at 4736 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee, at what looks to be the Seasons Florida Resort. Participants are instructed to stay in their cars, which will follow one another, driving together toward Orlando, where they'll announce their seven demands aimed at Governor DeSantis and state leaders.

These suddenly-jobless workers  employed by Walt Disney World, the Convention Center, and area hotels and restaurants  find themselves navigating an unemployment benefits system designed to fail, where, even with new state resources being devoted to it, only a small percentage of applicants have been processed and verified. Organizers say, "we have waited for weeks without the unemployment pay we are owed."

Though Disney and now Universal have pledged to auto-enroll furloughed employees into the state's unemployment system, aid and assistance is still in danger of not coming quickly enough.
Because most rent and mortgage payments are due on Friday, you can bet housing relief will be among the demands, including suspending rent payments for tenants.

"There's not enough food in our kitchens," says the event announcement. "If we had healthcare before the crisis, many of us lost it with our jobs."

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