Washtenaw County service industry workers have started a petition calling on the Washtenaw Board of Commissioners to extend the closure of dine-in availability at bars and restaurants due to health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The petition discusses the challenges restaurant workers across the country are facing including labor violations, hostile working conditions and little protection under the law. It also calls on the board to guarantee hazard pay and healthcare to workers forced to work in restaurants or bars.

On June 3, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statement allowing restaurants to open on June 8, with 50 percent capacity for dine-in services as long as social distancing guidelines are enforced.

The petition cited infectious disease experts who have said bars and restaurants are high risk establishments because customers do not wear masks while eating or drinking, do not tend to follow social distancing guidelines if under the influence of alcohol and participate in the culture of mingling in crowds at bars. In addition, the petition also cited a study that suggests air conditioning units help spread COVID-19. 

Another issue mentioned is how workers in the service industry heavily rely on tips and will now be forced to take pay cuts due to limited restaurant capacity without guarantee for their safety amid fears of a second wave of the virus.

“We believe that reopening now is way too soon,” The petition states. “We fear that we are being forced back to work as ‘test subjects’ for the sake of the economy and that eventually, when the second wave takes place, businesses will be shut down again.”

Daily Staff Reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at varshakv@umich.edu

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