Vancouver, BC — Jerty Fernandez Gaa, a terminated hotel worker from Pan Pacific Vancouver, has been awarded a City of Vancouver Diversity and Inclusion Award under the 2022 Awards of Excellence program. Jerty led a successful campaign to unionize her hotel in 2020 and is an advocate of the B.C. Unequal Women campaign, speaking out against racism, sexism, and discrimination against women in the hospitality industry.
While a public area attendant at Pan Pacific, she led union organizing efforts among her co-workers across all departments to improve job conditions and security. Workers at Pan Pacific started organizing to join the union in summer 2020. During the pandemic, around 100 workers, many of them long-term women of colour, were terminated. A lawsuit was filed against the hotel over wrongful terminations last year and was given the green light by a B.C. Supreme Court judge to proceed as a class action.
Jerty raised her children as a single mother of four. After 11 years of service at Pan Pacific, she was terminated along with her co-workers when the pandemic struck. She decided to advocate on behalf of all terminated workers through the B.C. Unequal Women Campaign to stand up for workers who experienced unequal economic impacts of COVID-19. In BC’s hospitality industry alone, 50,000 hotel workers lost their jobs in 2020, and many were not returned to their pre-pandemic jobs. Instead of bringing them back as business resumed, some hotels fired their long-term workforce — many of whom are women of colour.
Jerty Fernandez Gaa, terminated hotel worker from Pan Pacific Vancouver:
“It is such an honour to receive this award from the City of Vancouver. Thank you so much to UNITE HERE Local 40 for nominating me, and to my former colleagues, friends, and family, who have supported and stood beside me in the fight to protect the jobs of hospitality workers. This award is for all of us, and I will keep on speaking out and advocating for myself and my co-workers until we get our jobs back!”
Zailda Chan, President of UNITE HERE Local 40:
“Since workers at Pan Pacific Vancouver organized to form a union, Jerty is one of the most resilient leaders to emerge from that campaign. Her determination to fight for all hospitality workers during the pandemic, even after she was wrongfully terminated in the face of adversity, is inspiring.”
Jean Swanson, Vancouver City Councillor:
“Jerty truly deserves this award and is a shining example of what it means to never give up. I have followed the B.C, Unequal Women campaign since it launched, and with Jerty at the forefront, hundreds of women in the hospitality industry from diverse backgrounds have stood up to protect their jobs and fight for better futures for their families.”
Media contact: Stephanie Fung, firstname.lastname@example.org, 604-928-7356