What Is Philadelphia’s “Black Workers Matter” Economic Recovery Package

Sadly, anything titled “Black Workers Matter” was destined for a controversial reception. That was a bill recently passed by the Philadelphia City Council to make sure that many minority workers will still have the jobs from which they were laid off when the coronavirus pandemic first started. The bill should provide almost guaranteed employment for about 12,000 people in the hospitality sector. 

The package was first introduced by Councilmembers Helen Gym, Kenyatta Johnson and Isaiah Thomas. 

The package includes protections for workers who might otherwise be replaced by temporary contractors and also for workers whose place of employment was sold. 

The council members acknowledged that the hospitality industry was very hard hit by COVID-19, and continues to suffer. Employment has collapsed by about 38 percent since the onset of the pandemic. The bill acknowledges that this impact disproportionately affected African American workers — who represent a majority of the tourism workforce. 

Helen Gym said, “Today, City Council sent a message that we will not only support the tourism industry — we will protect the jobs of the workers who built it and will rebuild it as the economy reopens. The bill protects our City’s public health by ensuring the industry is staffed by the most experienced workers. For too long, studies have found Black workers are the first to be laid-off and the last to be rehired after an economic downturn. We will not stand for that in our city. Instead, we are building a recovery led by workers, prioritizing the needs of their families and communities.”

The legislation comes as lawmakers in towns and cities are struggling to adopt measures to reduce the impact of the coronavirus pandemic that has led to a widespread economic downturn. 

Thomas said, “This pandemic has hurt our local and national economy with many industries looking at months if not years of financial hardship — the hospitality industry being one of the most economically impacted sectors.”