Labor union Unite Here Local 23, which represents approximately 25,000 hospitality workers across the United States, hosted the first Austin Hospitality Workers Summit on Saturday, August 20. The organization unveiled a list of goals the union hopes to push for going forward, with its first-ever Texas Hospitality Workers Bill of Rights.
The Texas Hospitality Workers Bill of Rights includes seven specific items that Unite Here Local 23 is prioritizing in its activism: the right to join a union, living wages and healthcare access, affordable housing for workers, access to public transportation, training and advancement opportunities, and equal treatment regardless of nationality, race, gender, or sexuality.
Kate Moulding, a representative for Unite Here Local 23, says this list isn’t a legislative proposal or something they intend for companies to adopt, but rather “it is the vision our union has for what we can win for hospitality workers in Texas, and the framework that guides us as an organization.”
“These items represent the things we hear hospitality workers say they care about and that we need to work on as an organization,” continues Moulding. The Local 23 chapter of Unite Here was initially founded in September 2009 to represent airport workers and has since expanded with hospitality workers in hotels, colleges, hospitals, and more. Austin-based chapters include LSG Sky Chefs, Google’s dining facilities, and St. Edward’s University’s dining.
Notable attendees of the Summit include Austin Council Members Vanessa Fuentes and Ann Kitchen as well as Greg Casar, a former Austin councilmember who is currently running for Congress and has vocally supported unions throughout his political career. Signers of the Bill of Rights include Austin Mayor Steve Adler, five Austin councilmembers, and representatives from across the state.
Strong union support in Austin is consistent with the larger labor movement growing throughout the food industry, which has seen workers increasingly empowered to organize and unionize. Earlier this summer, an Austin Starbucks became the first to unionize in Texas, and more recently, staffers at Austin’s popular Detroit-style pizza restaurant Via 313 filed to unionize, which workers claimed led to a retaliation from the company’s higher-ups.
Back in 2020, local small business nonprofit Good Work Austin released a similar list of guidelines amid the earlier days of COVID, when safety protocols for employees were all over the place.