New York, NY – There were thousands of hospitality workers in Lower Manhattan on 9/11, many of them members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union.

Evacuated after the terrorist attacks, these workers returned in the following days and weeks to hotels, conference centers, cafeterias, executive dining rooms, and restaurants in the Financial District, Battery Park City, and TriBeCa.

The contributions of union hospitality workers were crucial to New York City’s recovery. 

At the same time, however, these union hotel and food service workers were exposed to harmful Ground Zero toxins, despite claims by government officials that the air was safe to breathe.

The air wasn’t safe.

Anyone who worked lived, or studied nearby has a dramatically higher risk of developing 68 different types of cancer and many respiratory illnesses.

Members of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union – later UNITE HERE Local 100 – successfully advocated for the federal government to create the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF).

The health program provides free, comprehensive medical care to 9/11 victims for their 9/11-related illnesses. The fund offers tax-free awards for pain and suffering, lost earnings, and benefits for surviving spouses and family members.

The victim fund offers tax-free awards for pain and suffering, lost earnings, and benefits for surviving spouses and family members.

Yet even today, more than two decades after 9/11, less than one in five people in the 9/11 community have filed for an award, including many hospitality workers who are eligible.

There were also many contract – or per diem – workers at Lower Manhattan hospitality establishments who might have difficulty accessing employment records or affidavits from former colleagues

We have a shared responsibility to inform hotel and food service workers who were in Lower Manhattan about their right to free health care and compensation and help them demonstrate “proof of presence” in the exposure zones for the WTC Health Program and the 9/11 VCF.

If you were there, you have the right to register with the 9/11 VCF – even if currently healthy – and enroll in the WTC Health Program if you are diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness.

For the WTC Health Program, the exposure zone includes all of Manhattan below Houston Street and parts of Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO in Brooklyn.

For the 9/11 VCF, the exposure zone is smaller – it includes the area of Manhattan south of Canal Street and west of Clinton Street.

Barasch & McGarry, Lawyers for the 9/11 Community, which represents more than 30,000 members of the 9/11 community, has proudly advocated for union members for more than twenty-five years.

If you were exposed to Ground Zero toxins, you should know your health status. Don’t let a delayed diagnosis become a death sentence.

Visit or call 800-314-0683 today.


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