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Service industry workers schedule rally after Governor Abbott announces Texas will reopen



On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott will allow businesses to operate at 100% capacity and is lifting the statewide mask mandate. Now, service industry workers, like grocery store workers and restaurant workers, plan to gather outside of the State Capitol on Monday at 1 p.m. to rally.

According to the Restaurant Organizing Project’s petition, “Abbott is declaring that the lives of food, beverage, grocery, and other essential workers are worth sacrificing to win his culture war against masks.”

Service industry workers schedule rally after Governor Abbott announces Texas will reopen

The Restaurant Organizing Project and the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee, among other organizations, are working together to demand the COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel prioritize the vaccinations of food, beverage, and grocery workers.

“We are calling all essential workers to join us to rally against Greg Abbott’s lifting of the mask mandate and reopening to 100% capacity,” said Crystal Maher, Restaurant Organizing Project.

On social media, these groups are using the phrase “70% before 100%,” meaning they don’t want Texas 100% open until 70% of essential workers are vaccinated.

“I make $2.13 an hour plus tips, so if my guest is upset that I’m enforcing masks at the table, they might not tip me, and that’s something I will need to make a choice of if it’s close to rent time am I going to offend this customer and risk not making my rent next month, or am I going to risk getting coronavirus or risking my fellow workers because I can’t just go get a vaccine,” said Maher.

The Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee said it’s not safe for restaurant workers, grocery store workers and other customer service workers to work in an environment where masks aren’t required, especially since these essential workers still aren’t eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“They deserve to not live in fear while they’re working. They deserve that dignity. The way that you could accomplish that is through collection action,” said Chris Himelblau, Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee.

Texas recently added teachers and childcare workers higher on the list for vaccines. Austin Public Health launched a new initiative over the weekend called “School Saturdays,” allocating time slots specifically for school staff.

At Monday’s rally, they’ll be demanding service industry workers be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, so their lives aren’t put at risk when the state reopens at 100% capacity and masks are no longer required.

“It is so important to prioritize the vaccination of all workers who have public facing jobs,” Himelblau said.

On top of that, these workers fear the backlash they’ll get from customers regarding masks, especially after seeing the many altercations that arose when the mask mandate was first implemented.

“People will be shot, stabbed, hit and spit at. We will be verbally assaulted and we’re not police. We’re not paid for this,” Maher said.

The Restaurant Organizing Project and the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee said this rally is just the beginning of a long fight to protect these essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.