AUSTIN, Texas — Just days before the majority of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions were rescinded, dozens of protesters took to the Texas Capitol, demanding a safer reopening of the state.
Jeannette Gregor, one of the demonstration organizers, watched in shear amazement last week when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state would lift its mask mandate and open businesses back up to 100% capacity.
“This is clearly not something that was done with me in mind,” said Gregor. “Not with service industry professionals, any workforce, any labor force in the state of Texas in mind.”
For the last year, Gregor has been bartending in the absence of her normal full-time job - live event producer. She says she feel lucky to work for two bars that intend to keep masking and social distancing in place.
"They're looking out for my safety and our customers' safety - I only wish our governor was as well,” lamented Gregor.
Rallying for the service and music industry has become Gregor’s part-time job. She helped co-found The Amplified Sound Coalition, a group of music industry professionals in Austin, to help being awareness to the issues plaguing the live music scene in the wake of the pandemic.
“I was told I had to pivot toward something more practical, I had to find a job that would sustain me until maybe the music industry opened back up,” recalled Gregor. “I refused to do that because this is my career, this is who I am. And in refusing to do that, I one-hundred percent pivoted toward advocacy and the nonprofit world, and activism."
Monday, TASC joined the Restaurant Organizing Project, Texas Mutual Aid and the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee, to advocate for a safer reopening of Texas, using the battle cry of “70 before 100”.
"What we're asking here today is that 70% of our essential workers be vaccinated before we open the state to 100%,” said Gregor, worrying that without mass vaccination, she and other service industry employees would be putting their lives on the line.
"And we're the community that doesn't have health insurance, or access to health insurance,” said Gregor.
A petition is being circulated, urging the state’s COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP) “prioritize the vaccinations of food, beverage, and grocery workers”.