‘A champion for hospitality workers’: Major South Florida union backs Ken Russell for Congress

The nod from Unite Here Local 355 marks the fifth union endorsement Russell has gained in his House bid.

Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell’s bid for Congress now has support from the southeasternmost chapter of America’s largest hospitality union.

On Thursday, Russell’s campaign announced the endorsement of Unite Here Local 355, which represents nearly 7,000 hotel, airport, casino, stadium and restaurant employees across South Florida between Homestead, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers and the coastline.

“Ken has been a champion for hospitality workers, making sure they are paid living wages and treated with the dignity they deserve,” Unite Here Local 355 Political Director Mike Hill said in a statement. “(We are) proud to endorse Ken Russell for U.S. Congress.”

The nod from Unite Here marks the fifth union endorsement Russell has received since launching his campaign May 1 to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. María Elvira Salazar in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. His other union backers, so far, include local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, International Association of Fire Fighters and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

A City Commissioner since 2015, Russell has advocated for numerous legislative items to help workers. In 2016, shortly after his election, he pushed for a $15 minimum wage on all city contracts — and succeeded later that year. He also backed legislation requiring mandatory minimums for organized labor in developments of city-related projects.

When Miami Commissioners approved a massive soccer stadium complex deal with billionaire Jorge Mas and retired footballer David Beckham last month, he got Mas to agree to pay all employees there $18 an hour and guarantee organized labor in its construction.

During the pandemic, he helped lead city efforts to collaborate with Unite Here to prioritize food programs for hospitality workers with school-aged children, arranged hot meal services with SEIU Healthcare Florida Local 1991 and supported a housing program for nurses and doctors, according to a press note from his campaign.

He’s also been vocal in his support of LGBTQ equalityhousing affordability and initiatives focused on sea level rise and clean water.

Russell, a Miami native and local business owner, said he has “always stood by workers and they have stood by me,” adding that fair wages and affordable housing are “hugely important issues” for him, especially as South Florida real estate prices soar.

“Unions are endorsing my campaign because they have known me for years,” he told Florida Politics.

“I have repeatedly fought and delivered for workers in Miami, and now they want to send me to Washington. María Elvira Salazar and extremists in Congress have fought to hand tax breaks to billionaires, while those who earn a paycheck get less. It’s time for that to change.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.

One comment

  • Peterh

    May 27, 2022 at 1:28 pm

    Good for Ken Russell. We need young fresh faces in Washington to address America’s problems. Unions built America. Go Ken.

Comments are closed.


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