By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Hotels in the Southland and across the state were among the hardest hit during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Now, state legislators say they are trying to help the throngs of laid-off workers in the hospitality industry by passing a new law that says larger hotels and resorts have to rehire their former staff first before hiring new employees.

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“What we really want to do is make sure that as hotels are opening back up, that these workers who have been on unemployment, unable to work for almost a year now, have the first right of refusal to return to work if they were laid off during the pandemic,” San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting, who authored the bill, said.

Ting says legislators are only targeting larger organizations, such as hotel chains.

“This only affects large hotels,” he said. “So the mom and pop hotels, if you have a 10-room inn or a bed and breakfast or something that’s only a few rooms, you are not impacted. This is really geared toward the larger hotel chains.”

Hotel workers in the Southland have been rallying since last summer to protect their jobs. Just last week, dozens protested after being laid off from a large hotel chain at Los Angeles International Airport.

“Workers in the hospitality industry have been some of the most devastated workers during this pandemic,” Maria Hernandez, of Unite Here Local 11, said. “Majority of them tend to be women, tend to be people of color, but they are also folks who have given decades of their lives.”

Over the past year, California has lost almost 700,000 jobs in the hospitality industry. According to state numbers, tens of thousands of former staffers remain out of work.

But hospitality layoffs go beyond hotels.

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Susan Privette, a Hollywood resident, says she has lost three jobs in the hospitality industry in the last year.

“The only thing I’m really, really paying right now is my rent, groceries and that type of thing,” she said. “But utilities? No.”

And she says the layoffs have taken an emotional toll.

“With me not working, I just feel like I have no identity,” she said. “My youngest child has left, so I have an empty nest now, and like I’m just trying to find out who I am right now. I don’t know who I am anymore.”

The California Chamber of Commerce has reportedly sent a letter to members of the legislature opposing the bill claiming that it micromanages the rehiring process. But legislators say the idea is to move forward and give struggling families a chance to get back on their feet.

“Many of those folks were unemployed and have been unemployed for the last year,” Ting said. “We just want to make sure they have every opportunity to get their job back.”

Newsom signed the bill into law Friday. It requires employers in the hospitality and business services industries — including hotels, airports and large event centers — to offer new positions to qualified former employees laid off due to COVID-19 within five business days through 2024.

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“As we progress toward fully reopening our economy, it is important we maintain our focus on equity,” he said in a statement. “SB 93 keeps us moving in the right direction by assuring hospitality and other workers displaced by the pandemic are prioritized to return to their workplace.”