Miami union boss Andy Balash is looking for a fight.
The former Long Island bartender, who lost 700 airline food service workers at once after the terrorist attacks, is talking with his hands, his face frozen like a boxer who's gone too many rounds. Other members of his local union have been laid off, too, mostly hospitality staffers, though callbacks have replenished employee rolls to about 85 percent of where they were before Sept. 11.
Balash, secretary/treasurer at the Hotel Employees and Restaurant International Union (HERE) local 355 in Miami since 1995, said service union ranks that swelled locally from about 1,800 to 3,200 since 1994 have stalled. The U.S. Labor Department said 46,000 jobs were lost in October nationally.
Balash is also concerned that the voice of the hospitality worker is being drowned out by single-minded efforts to pump up tourist spending.