Bloomberg Funds Laid-Off Hospitality Workers Door-Knocking to Black, Latino Voters in Florida

Former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg continues his ground game assault in Florida—this time funding a union whose workers have been devastated by the pandemic—to reach Black and Latino voters.

Bloomberg's $1 million contribution is to UNITE HERE's Take Back 2020 program, which is employing hundreds of laid-off Florida hospitality workers who are canvassing in Central and South Florida. It is the latest announcement concerning the $100 million cash injection he pledged on behalf of Joe Biden, enabling the Democratic nominee to focus on other states.

"Union workers helped build the American middle class—it's unconscionable that millions now find themselves out of work and unable to put food on the table for their families as a result of this economic crisis," Mike Bloomberg told Newsweek. "Joe Biden understands that these hardworking men and women are the backbone of the American economy and I'm glad to work with UNITE HERE and union workers from across Florida to make him the next president of the United States."

The union notes this work is critical, because President Donald Trump won Florida by just 1%, while half a million Democrats in South and Central Florida did not vote. While Bloomberg's offensive in the state began with an ad blitz in expensive major markets, direct mail and ground efforts were always going to be a part of the blueprint, as Newsweek first reported.

Colombian-American Democratic strategist Evelyn Pérez-Verdía lives in Weston, Florida, also known as Westonzuela because of the Venezuelan expatriates that now call it home. She said Republicans were door-knocking before Democrats, but doing it wrong, as she learned when someone renting her house said Latinos for Trump canvassers came to the door without masks.

"There has to be a sense of respect for life," she said. "Democrats have learned there's a way to do this safely with social distancing."

The canvassers doing the door-knocking are largely Black and Latina women themselves, living and working in communities the program is targeting in Miami-Dade, Broward, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, and Polk counties. They're among the 34,000 UNITE HERE workers, almost all of whom were laid off, as stay at home orders spread.

The 800 hospitality workers doing this electoral work were previously employed at places like the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, the Diplomat hotel in Hollywood, and Disney World in Orlando. Beyond ground efforts, they are also volunteering to reach voters through phone calls and text messages.

The job isn't easy, especially amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has devastated the economy.

"I'm canvassing because receiving unemployment benefits in Florida has been a complete disaster," Sabino Jarquin, a server at La Pausa, Areas USA at Miami International Airport, told Newsweek.

Wendi Walsh, the political director for UNITE HERE in Florida, said the tremendous spike in the virus over the summer led to members falling sick, with some dying, as many scrambled for unemployment benefits, financial relief, and health care.

But the program is called Take Back 2020 because the workers are "not hopeless or helpless," she told Newsweek.

"This is an opportunity to take their power back," Walsh said. "They're never going to forget how they were treated during these last six months."

Jarquin added that he is grateful for Bloomberg's support and recognition of the laid-off workers.

"Going door to door is not easy," he said. "It's hot, humid, and rainy, but that's not going to stop me. Canvassing will make people go out and vote. We will defeat Trump."

florida black voters
Bettylourde Guerrier speaks with Calvin Williams as she canvasses a neighborhood encouraging people to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is running against President Donald Trump on October 06, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. UNITE HERE coordinated the canvassing effort as they lead a statewide effort to mobilize voters before the November 3rd election. UNITE HERE Florida is a labor union that represents over 34,000 workers in the hotel, casino, food service, and airport industries in Central and South Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty