Last week, San Diego airport bartender Anita Burbage got the call she’d been waiting months to hear – that it was time to go back to work.
Burbage, 56, who came to the United States in 1991 from her native Philippines, didn’t mind that she’d be instead working as a server, and for just two days a week. After spending most of the past year unemployed, the Chula Vista, California, resident was grateful to be working again.
She and her hospitality worker colleagues have survived the year in part because of regular Zoom chats organized by their union in which they share their fears: That they won’t be able to make rent. That they’ll get COVID. Or for her fellow Filipino colleagues, that they’ll be assaulted – simply because they’re Asian.
“I’m scared for them,” Burbage said, tears erupting as she recalled those online exchanges. “These are people I’ve worked with for years. I told everybody, ‘Just hang in there. We will have the vaccine soon, and we will go back to work.’”
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are grappling with the nation’s highest rates of long-term unemployment more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, beauty salons and other sectors of the economy. Even as uncharacteristically high unemployment levels driven by the economic shutdown have returned to near pre-pandemic levels, many Asian Americans are unsure when they will be able to return to work.
According to the…