Workers from one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic took to the streets Monday, calling for an end to a nationwide order that has prevented employees from working for six months.
The cruise line business is a huge economic engine for South Florida, and the no-sail order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention back in March has prevented the industry from generating any business.
That order is set to expire Wednesday night and workers on Monday pushed for it to go away for good.
Port of Miami workers, like Andrew Allison, have had little if any employment since March.
“Pretty much, since the no-sail order, I haven’t been able to work,” Allison said.
Allison is one of the many men and women you see checking and handling your bags when boarding one of the gigantic cruise vessels at the port. The 6 months away from work have taken their toll.
“Rents due, everything is still due, and we are not able to meet those obligations,” Allison said.
“This is how we eat. This is how we feed our families," Torin Ragin, the head of the Longshoreman’s Union, said.
The labor union representing the workers is calling on the CDC to let the no-sail order expire Wednesday night.
“This labor force is ready and willing to do anything that it has to do to be in compliance with safely traveling—safely cruising—all the CDC recommendations,” Ragin said.
The port workers say, in addition to the financial hardships, they are also going to lose their medical insurance if they don’t get back to work.
“We have to work a certain amount of hours to qualify for benefits, for insurance, for different things, and what not,” Allison said.
On Saturday, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez wrote a letter to the CDC, urging that the agency does not extend the no-sail order.
Gimenez said one of the largest cruise companies in the United States, Cruise Lines International Association (CLA), adopted several health protocols to begin phasing in passengers services.
CLA, which includes Carnival, Royal Caribbean and dozens of other cruise companies, announced in August that their members would voluntarily extend the suspension of ocean-going cruise operations to Oct. 31.
Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez also contacted the CDC asking them to let the order expire. Even if it does the ships won’t get back to sailing right away. The industry group representing them says the cruise lines voluntarily decided not to being sailing at the earliest until November.