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Dallas Restaurant Workers Will Protest to Demand Extension of Federal Unemployment Benefits

The day of action, planned for Friday, will also demand better working conditions for restaurant employees

A restaurant worker manages a drive-thru transaction
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A group of Dallas-area restaurant employees is planning a day of action this Friday to demand that the U.S. Congress extend the $600 enhanced unemployment bonus set to expire at the end of this month, and to ask for better working conditions for food service employees.

The Day of Action is one of many planned for cities throughout the United States, including Austin, Denver and Las Vegas.

In a statement posted to Facebook, members of the Restaurant Organizing Project wrote that the pandemic was getting worse in the United States, not better, and that restaurant employees do not feel safe at work.

“Many of us don’t have insurance or savings because our jobs were already precarious. Now, the CEOs and billionaires want to take away our only lifeline,” the statement reads. “They’re telling Congress to let our $600 federal unemployment benefits expire. They don’t care if we live or die, so long as they make a profit.”

The $600 referenced in the statement refers to a temporary expansion of weekly federal unemployment benefits, approved in March at the start of the pandemic, and set to expire at the end of July. The unemployment plan also included benefits for people who had lost wages but were still employed, and other measures meant to mitigate the effects of the economic turndown. Congress is currently in talks to extend or replace that enhanced support when it expires later this month.

Friday’s Day of Action will include a lunchtime phone blast to the offices of Texas senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to ask them to support an extension of the enhanced unemployment, and a rush hour banner drop intended to elicit support for the group. Organizers will provide a script with talking points and a list of phone numbers for anyone who wants to participate in the phone blast.

Ivy Vance, an organizer for the Day of Action, said the event is a joint project between Restaurant Workers United and the Restaurant Organizing Project, a subgroup of the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission. RWU was founded in April to address safety concerns amongst workers in the restaurant industry, but quickly pivoted to organizing around unemployment because of how much of a lifeline the extended benefits had been to hospitality employees.

“Even if you’re still working you can benefit from unemployment insurance,” Vance said. “A lot of restaurant employers have smartly told people to keep filing their unemployment claims, so that if another shutdown occurs or someone needs to quarantine for 14 days, they’ll already be in the system.”

Around the same time RWU was forming, so was the Restaurant Organizing Project. The two groups decided to work together to better advocate for workers in the food industry. Those workers have been especially hard in Texas, where coronavirus continues to spike. After a premature opening of the economy, Texas Governor Greg Abbott decided to re-close bars and roll back restaurant occupancy limits in late June.

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