ANNAPOLIS, Md. — As Maryland workers celebrate a court victory, which allows them to continue collecting federal unemployment benefits, representatives of a state hospitality union say the ruling is a lifesaver for the thousands of Marylanders still without jobs.
Roxie Herbekian, president of Unite Here Local 7, a union for hotel, gaming, and food-service workers in the state, said attorneys in the case proved there is actually no worker shortage in Maryland, as Gov. Larry Hogan argued while trying to end the benefits.
“There are not as many jobs as there are unemployed people in this state,” Herbekian contended. “And a lot of the holes in our system to provide equality of employment have been laid open with this pandemic because things have become just direr.”
She noted the judge also challenged Hogan’s argument expanded unemployment benefits are deterring people from seeking jobs. The extra $300 in benefits from the American Rescue Plan will now continue until Sep. 6.
The ruling is the result of two class-action lawsuits, one filed by four unemployed members of Herbekian’s union. She pointed out many union members are still relying on unemployment as they wait to be called back to their regular jobs.
When Hogan announced in May he wanted to end the extra benefits, she emphasized living through pandemic hardships compelled these workers to take action.
“This was truly a ‘David versus Goliath kind of victory,” Herbekian asserted. “You know, these have been difficult times. I’d just really encourage all worker organizations, unions, rank and file activists, this is not a time for us to step back. This is a time for us to be bold, and try.”
A total of 26 states decided to cancel the extra benefits this summer, which include coverage for independent contractors. But unemployed residents of Texas and Ohio are also suing, and Indiana workers just won reinstatement of their benefits.