UNITE HERE Florida to kick-off political canvassing operations in Central and South Florida with multi-city press conference, PPE distribution caravan

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Contact: MJ Leira, Mleira@unitehere.org, (917) 565-7697


  • Wendi Walsh, UNITE HERE Florida Political Director and Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355
  • Jeremy Haicken, UNITE HERE Local 737 President
  • 200 UNITE HERE Florida political canvassers.


WHEN: Tuesday, October 6, 2020 at 9am and 11am


WHAT: UNITE HERE Florida virtual press conference to kick-off political canvassing efforts in South and Central Florida. Wendi Walsh and Jeremy Haicken will speak with political canvassers ahead of them going out into Miami-Dade, Broward, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, and Polk neighborhoods to mobilize voters. Press conference will be followed by a PPE distribution caravan in both Central and South Florida where canvassers receiving their PPE, black Take Back 2020 shirts and face masks will be available to interview.


 WHERE: Media RSVP https://forms.gle/2o3Rc2mvcudDK7sFA 9:00am zoom

Miami:871 NW 167 Street Miami Gardens, FL 33169 11:00am

Orlando:  1255 La Quinta Driva, Suite 214 Orlando, FL 32809 11:00am


WHY: Hospitality workers in Florida continue to experience the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic. UNITE HERE is leading a statewide effort to mobilize voters. In 2016, Trump won Florida by a margin of just 1%, while half a million Democrats in South and Central Florida did not vote.  UNITE HERE Florida is using all of our resources to move voters in counties where our members live and work, in order to make up that critical 1% difference, and inspire many more voters to go to the polls to elect Joe Biden.

Over 500 laid off hospitality workers from Walt Disney World and Orlando International Airport to the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, the Diplomat Beach Resort, Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport are taking back their power in this election. Canvassers are, by majority, Black and Brown women, who live and work in the communities the union is targeting.

UNITE HERE Florida has created and follows a comprehensive “contactless door-to-door canvassing” model, which includes a set of rules that go above and beyond what is required by health authorities in Florida. These include mandatory use of PPE including masks and gloves and adherence to social distancing guidelines. By strictly following this model, we can safely conduct door-to-door canvassing, which facilitates the direct conversations proven to be more effective at turning out low propensity voters and helping all voters understand how to cast their ballots.



UNITE HERE Florida is a labor union that represents over 34,000 workers in the hotel, casino, food service, and airport industries in Central and South Florida. Over 200 hospitality workers have come out on a full-time Leave of Absence, an additional 300 statewide serve as volunteer “poll stewards” who conduct voter outreach via phone and text message and will also protect voters at the polls during early voting and on Election Day.

Laid Off Hospitality Workers Got Out the Vote for Florida’s Primary Elections

Miami, FL— In March, almost all of the 33,000 hospitality workers represented by UNITE HERE Florida were laid off due to COVID-19.  Most remain laid off five months later.  Over these months, Florida’s hourly workers were largely abandoned by their elected leaders, left struggling to access unemployment benefits and health insurance, and fearing for their lives as a few reentered the workplace.

In response, laid off hospitality workers have turned their attention to electoral politics to take back their power. UNITE HERE Florida housekeepers, cooks, servers, and dishwashers put in thousands of hours volunteering to turn out the vote. Denia Fernandez, cashier at Miami International Airport, said: “The County Commission, in the middle of a health crisis, cancelled proposal 11A11, rejecting paid sick days. This showed us that the Commissioners need to understand the power of our vote.”  Hear more from Denia here.

Yolette Lareus added, “I’ve been working as a cook at Calder Casino for 27 years. I’ve seen how Oliver Gilbert has fought for us to keep our jobs. On my own, I’ve raised my two 11 and 13-year-old daughters who need a prosperous future. Voting is the only way we can fix this situation. The same way Mayor Gilbert helped me as Mayor of Miami Gardens I know he’ll be able to do more in the County Commission of Miami-Dade.”

Workers supported candidates for the County Commission who have supported them. “Our members know that Commissioner Eileen Higgins passed a $3 million-dollar legislation that will provide financial relief to furloughed hotel workers. We backed Mayor Oliver Gilbert because he stood up for worker safety protections during this pandemic. Our members will never forget that Commissioner Keon Hardemon donated food vouchers to feed their families in their time of need. People are loyal to those who are loyal to them when it mattered most,” said Wendi Walsh, UNITE HERE Florida Political Director.

All three candidates supported by UNITE HERE Florida for Miami-Dade County Commission achieved solid victories. Commissioners Eileen Higgins and Keon Hardemon both came in first in their districts and will be on the ballot for November runoffs. In District 1 alone, hospitality workers had 6,989 phone conversations, dialed 259,244 phone numbers, visited 8,426 doors, and texted with tens of thousands more voters to deliver a victory for Oliver Gilbert.

For laid off hospitality workers, the primary was just the beginning.  UNITE HERE Florida members are signing up to volunteer in unprecedented numbers heading into November to vote out Donald Trump.

Press Contact: Wendi Walsh, wwalsh@unitehere.org


UNITE HERE Florida is a labor union that represents over 33,000 workers in the hotel, casino, food service, and airport industries in Central and South Florida.

Hotel Worker Dies From COVID-19 After Fontainebleau Cut His Health Insurance Coverage

Hotel Worker Dies From COVID-19 After Fontainebleau Cut His Health Insurance Coverage

WHO: Hotel workers from the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, UNITE HERE Local 355 hospitality workers, family and friends of German Amaya.

WHAT: Press conference at German Amaya’s wake ceremony

WHERE: Maspons Funeral Home, 3500 SW 8th Street Miami FL 33135

WHEN: Saturday, August 8 at 3:30 pm

WHY: For 11 years, German Amaya was a banquet houseman at one of the richest, most luxurious hotels in the U.S.: the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Resort. In late June the hotel cut healthcare coverage for workers laid off during this pandemic, forcing nearly 1,000 workers – including German – to lose health insurance, as the coronavirus pandemic infects record numbers in Florida.

On Friday, August 7th, German Amaya lost his fight to COVID-19, after spending one month intubated and in an induced coma at Mercy Hospital. His death is particularly painful because it highlights the healthcare, economic, and political crisis our country, and specifically Florida, is currently in. He leaves behind his wife, who was also laid off during this pandemic, and two children, who now unjustly carry the burden of needing to pay out-of-pocket for his medical expenses since the Fontainebleau cut health insurance for its laid off employees in June. When the Fontainebleau cut German’s healthcare coverage, his $10,000 death benefit was also cut, leaving his family without any aid for funeral expenses or medical bills.

During the CARES Act Congressional Oversight Commission hearing, also on Friday, August 7th, UNITE HERE Secretary-Treasurer Gwen Mills told Congresswoman Donna Shalala, “Our great concern about the Main Street Lending Program is that the hotel industry is seeking changes so that they can use the program to pay their CMBS mortgages, like the $975 million-dollar loan at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach.” She added, “the Fontainebleau stopped paying for healthcare for hundreds of our laid off members, which we believe is in violation of our contract. It would be wrong for taxpayers to fund a year or two of Fontainebleau’s debt payments of $39 million a year, while laid off workers lose their health insurance and rely on the public hospital system.”

Congresswoman Donna Shalala added, “I want to point out that those workers are also taxpayers.” Watch clip here: https://unitehere.box.com/s/9jwsqcgzntcdqc96yhcaukdqgh5frwde

“We demand justice for German Amaya and that begins with the Fontainebleau covering health insurance for all workers throughout this pandemic including those who are laid off,” says Wendi Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355.

Union leaders and UNITE HERE Local 355 hotel workers from the Fontainebleau will be available for interviews.

Press Contact: MJ Leira, mleira@unitehere.org


UNITE HERE Local 355 is a labor union that represents over 7,000 members working in the hotel, gaming, food service, and airport industries in South Florida.