hospitality workers fund

“Sometimes, I am lost for words:” Reflections of a hotel housekeeper during COVID-19

Nadine moved to the U.S. 30 years ago and for the last six years, she has worked as a housekeeper at the Westin Copley. It was a steady job that she relied on – until March when the pandemic changed everything. Like many of her fellow hospitality workers, she hasn’t worked since. Instead, she spends her days doing a different kind of work — keeping her family of five afloat.

“We go to food pantries. We listen to see if the phone will ring for work. I’m trying to keep my kids sane, fed and healthy, and pay rent. But it’s been very difficult to keep up with expenses – everything is one day at a time.”

Many of her coworkers are in the same boat: navigating limited opportunities to work, the risk of contracting the virus, trying to make ends meet and manage stress. “They just want to know where they can get assistance. I’m trying to keep them informed and stay strong for them – I’m trying to stay focused and positive through all of this. I lost a cousin to COVID-19 and I know a lot of my coworkers have lost loved ones as well. Sometimes, I am lost for words.”

On the ground

The hospitality industry is facing a crisis of enormous magnitude. Restaurants, bars and hotels are closed or operating at reduced capacity, which has resulted in 90% of Local 26 hotel workers unemployed and 1 in 3 facing the possibility that they might never return to their career. Most, like Nadine, are immigrant women with children.

“Hospitality workers were the first to lose their jobs when the pandemic hit, and they will be the last to be rehired,” said Joan Abbot, Assistant Director at BEST Hospitality Training Center.

That’s why United Way is partnering with BEST Hospitality Training Center and UNITE HERE Local 26 to distribute food assistance to laid-off hospitality workers. The partnership was one of our first in response to the COVID-19 crisis. BEST HTC, a workforce training organization serving the hospitality industry, and UNITE HERE Local 26 contacted 10,000 union members as lay-offs were first happening, to help people apply for unemployment and access resources. 9-months in and $200,000 in food assistance later, the Hospitality Workers Covid-19 Emergency Fund has been established to harness the collective generosity of our community to raise money for hospitality workers and their families who have lost jobs and income due to the pandemic.


“The need has never been greater,” shares our CEO Bob Giannino. “The hospitality sector has been devastated by this crisis. These families and communities can’t wait – they need our support now.” That’s why we’re asking our community to come together and step up for our neighbors in the hospitality industry. Together, we can make sure that everyone has what it takes to make it through – no matter what the future holds.

Donations to the Hospitality Workers Covid-19 Emergency Fund will provide grocery cards to bridge the gap for workers facing the tough decision between rent and food.