Coronavirus

Protesters to Hold Funeral Procession for Unemployment Assistance

A mock funeral procession — similar to this one protesting a lack of climate change action — will call attention to unemployed restaurant and union workers.
A mock funeral procession — similar to this one protesting a lack of climate change action — will call attention to unemployed restaurant and union workers. Erin McCarley
A death will occur on Friday, July 31: the death of the weekly $600 federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance checks that have helped out-of-work Coloradans make it through the past four months, as businesses, especially in the hospitality industry, have closed or operated at partial capacity.

So a mock funeral procession is happening at 12:30 p.m. today (Friday, July 24) to mark the somber occasion and to send a message to Senator Cory Gardner from participating restaurant and union workers. The $600-a-week unemployment benefits were originally authorized with the passage of the CARES Act and were intended as a short-term supplement to get workers through the coronavirus pandemic. But with the pandemic still in full swing, jobs are still scarce and the health risks of going back to work still loom large.

Organizers and participants include UNITE HERE Local 23, Denver Democratic Socialists of America, Colorado Jobs With Justice, the Restaurant Organizing Project, the Denver Area Labor Federation and the Colorado AFL-CIO. A press conference will be held at noon in front of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment at 633 17th Street, and the procession/protest will leave from there at 12:30 and end in front of Senator Gardner's office at 1961 Stout Street.

The protest is meant not only to call attention to the vast numbers of Colorado workers still unemployed, but also those now without health insurance or who risk losing it soon. "We feed you! Don’t let us starve!" organizers said in a press release. "As cases surge across the country, it is clear that the road to full recovery for Denver’s restaurants will be long, leaving millions of workers [here and nationwide] indefinitely unemployed."

Organizers are demanding that Gardner and Congress extend the unemployment assistance plan, and they're also calling on the government to add "federal assistance to cover 100 percent of COBRA health insurance premiums for workers unable to pay premiums because they are unemployed through no fault of their own and support other economic reforms to help working families survive the pandemic."

While most Colorado restaurant workers aren't union members, unions are the main organizers of the event; more information can be found at congressactnow.org.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation