Unions must fight against voter suppression and racial violence

Unions must fight against voter suppression and racial violence

By Aina Iglesias – Front Desk Agent, Doubletree Hilton Alana Waikiki

Are you interested in writing for UNITE HERE Local 5? We also offer writing training. Contact Paola Rodelas.

The pandemic made it clear that our basic human rights are under attack. The greediness of big corporations, the lack of support from both the federal and local governments, and the racial violence against black and non-black POC communities became very apparent.

In Hawaii, we see tourism back to normal with hotel occupancies nearing 100%, while only 64% of our industry is back to work. We experienced how difficult it was to receive help from our governments when applying for unemployment or getting stimulus checks.

We witnessed police shootings that killed a young Micronesian child, Iremamber Sykap, and a black man, Lindani Myeni, who were both found unarmed.

We are at the height of injustices everywhere, but we are also at the height of a revolution with people ready to fight back. Our union has never stopped fighting. During the pandemic, we fight twice as hard.

During the 2020 Presidential and Georgia senate run-off elections, I was one of 3,000 UNITE HERE workers who knocked on doors supporting candidates like now-President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. These elections were critical to protect our existing rights from Trump and the Republican-majority Senate who constantly attacked the working class and people of color.

To continue our union’s efforts to expand voting rights, we joined Black Voters Matter in the 2021 Freedom Ride to emphasize our support for the For the People Act, which would allow same-day voter registration and mandatory early voting for two weeks for all states, encourage mail-in voting, and more. If passed, this would override hundreds of years of restrictions to hinder workers, people of color, and the LGBTQ community from voting.

On June 17, 2021, four UNITE HERE buses left Phoenix, Arizona for a seven-day Freedom Ride to Washington D.C., where we rallied in support of the For the People Act.

A legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, it was necessary for us to join Black Voters Matter in the Freedom Ride. Learning about black struggles and black resistance from revolutionaries like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and Angela Davis taught all the freedom riders to become better leaders in our communities.

The Freedom Ride allowed non-black POC like me to absorb all the information about African American history, respect the space, empathize with those who still grieve, and come in solidarity with those who fight.

Having this perspective as a leader at the Doubletree Alana hotel helps me understand workers’ situations beyond our workplace. Race, ethnicity, gender, class, and disability have shaped the way we live—these daily struggles are the reasons why we continue to fight.

The rich and the Republican party saw our union victories to turn Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona as threats. They are now pushing hard to make sure black and brown working class folks do not get to vote.

Silencing people of color from having a voice in democracy is racist because that leaves only affluent white Americans to decide the future of the United States. We must demand to have our voices heard.

In Hawaii, we see videos on social media of racism and racial violence against black and brown communities in the mainland and claim it does not exist here. Unfortunately, racism exists and is very apparent in Hawaii. The amount of Native Hawaiians and Micronesians imprisoned or killed by the police is racist.

The thousands of unemployed Hawaii workers—majority immigrants of color—who are still out of work as tourism skyrockets in our state is a result of corporate greed. At full occupancies, hotels pocket millions of dollars by not bringing services back, while workers struggle to make ends meet and hope to be recalled back to work.

With all that we face, the last thing we want taken away is our voice. We deserve real national voting rights legislation. We need to end voter suppression so we can put people in elected office who will help us end racial violence and corporate greed.

Are you interested in writing for UNITE HERE Local 5? We also offer writing training. Contact Paola Rodelas.