Unite Here labor union holds caravan protesting Florida's unemployment problems

A parade of decorated cars caravanned from Kissimmee to Orlando on Friday, with occupants waving flags representing their union as well as white flags while shouting "S-O-S." 

The cars are filled with furloughed Disney employees still waiting on unemployment checks from the state of Florida. 

“Rent is due! Mortgage is due! Everything is due! The bills don’t know what the virus is!” one woman shouted. 

These protesters all belong to the Unite Here movement, part of the Local 737, made up of hotel and restaurant workers.  They are trying to get the attention of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 

“Governor help me!  I helped to build the tourism industry at Walt Disney World!  I need my money!” a protester yelled.

The Local 737 is asking the Governor to do 7 things:

  1. Raise Florida’s maximum unemployment to $600 per week for up to 26 weeks.
  2. Waive rent, mortgage payments and utilities for unemployed workers.
  3. Provide food to laid-off workers and their families.
  4. Offer free healthcare by expanding medicate to laid off workers.
  5. Ensure they get their jobs back with the same pay, benefits and hours.
  6. Provide personal protective gear when they got back to work.
  7. Make all the above improvements permanent.

State Senator Victor Torres, D-Orlando, joined the protest. 

“We ask you, Governor DeSantis, don’t ignore us and don’t delay the unemployment benefits that these workers deserve,” Sen. Torres said. 

He made it abundantly clear he’s sick of the delays out of Tallahassee. 

“I’m tired of having a taskforce that neglects to see the reality that’s hitting the folks out here. So guess what. I’m tired. I’m tired of the 'BS.' I’m tired of not taking care of the people who need help the most,” Sen. Torres said. 

He is asking for a special session to address the pandemic and the issues with Florida’s unemployment system. 

“Let’s work this out. Let’s sit down at the table. Let’s make sure we cover our bases.”

Sen.Torres said he’ thinks Florida’s lawmakers are capable of using personal protection equipment (PPE) and social distancing to meet and address the needs of Floridians.