(FOX 9) - Unite Here Local 17 President Crista Mello said the hospitality union she represents lost more than half of its members to the pandemic.
"Pre COVID-19, there was over 6,000 people and now there’s only several hundred," said Mello.
As businesses begin to reopen, she wants hospitality workers to get their jobs back.
"I think that there are some employers that will absolutely bring the workers back and put them back on the same pay and same benefits," she stated. "But we do think that there will be some employers that will use this to their advantage and get rid of workers or ask them to start all over."
Mello said there should be some enforcement in place to prevent employers from firing workers who would otherwise still be employed if it wasn’t for the pandemic.
"We have members who have been in their positions for 40 or more years, and we don’t think that they should have to reapply for a position that they’ve held for 40 years," said Mello. "With the aging population especially, we don’t want employers to find somebody younger that they feel can do the job faster or longer."
State Representative Andrew Carlson, who represents Bloomington, agrees.
That’s why he is pushing a bill that requires businesses in hospitality to notify workers when their positions open back up.
"Rehiring your past employees is good for business," said Carlson. "That [economic] recovery is going to occur a lot quicker because there’s less training and folks can get back to work."
But Hospitality Minnesota worries the bill would be a setback for businesses barely surviving.
The organization’s president, Liz Rammer, sent a letter to Carlson stating, "Our concerns about [bill] HF39 as currently drafted are that it imposes new and additional mandates and processes on hotels and constrains their flexibility at a time when their operational capacity has been diminished and flexibility is key."
Carlson said the legislation he's proposing is about making sure the most vulnerable workers have a good-paying job to go back to.
"The people losing their jobs…90 percent are people of color and mostly women. Ensuring the rights of these workers to return to their jobs pre-pandemic is a critical issue for racial justice as our economy continues to recover," he said.