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Baltimore Hospitality Workers Get COVID-19 Vaccines And Food Packages

Hospitality picked up bags of fresh produce in front of the stadium. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR
Hospitality picked up bags of fresh produce in front of the stadium. Credit: Sarah Y. Kim/WYPR

Baltimore hospitality workers received COVID-19 vaccines and bags of food in front of the M&T Bank Stadium Thursday. The effort was led by the nonprofit Total Health Care and UNITE HERE Local 7, the city’s hospitality workers union.

Hospitality workers like Jeff Barner, who was a bellman at the Hilton Baltimore, have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, thrown out of work as restaurants closed and hotel bookings dried up.

Barner has been laid off since last March. He spoke at a press conference on behalf of UNITE HERE Local 7 members.

“Today is a great day,” he said. “I see a lot of my co-workers out here today, and we are so glad to have been able to get assistance.”

Still, he said he is worried about what will happen to him and his co-workers when eviction moratoriums expire.

“I worry about some of my co-workers, especially the single mothers, who skip paying rent just to have enough food for their kids,” he said.

Barne said while other businesses are opening up, the hospitality industry may not be able to be what it was before the pandemic.

“We may or may not get full time work. And there may be less jobs available,” he said.

UNITE HERE Local 7 President Roxie Herbekian said after massive layoffs, hospitality workers have had to depend on unemployment insurance, stimulus checks and eviction moratoriums.

“We want hospitality workers to know that our union is dedicated to helping all of us in the hospitality industry get through this,” she said.

Total Health Care’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marcee White said vaccinating hospitality workers is crucial to getting back to normal and dismantling health disparities.

“We know that the pandemic unequally hit those that had underlying health conditions, those that were on the front lines,” White said. “We want to make sure that those who are in need have access to care.”

The event was made possible due to grants from the Mamie and Jerome Todd Relief Fund, founded by former gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, who was in attendance. He was joined by Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and City Councilman Zeke Cohen.

Sarah Y. Kim is WYPR’s health and housing reporter. Kim is WYPR's Report for America corps member, and Anthony Brandon Fellow. Kim joined WYPR as a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. Now in her second year as an RFA corps member, Kim is based in Baltimore City.