Culinary Union marches back to work on the Las Vegas Strip

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Wade Vandervort

Members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 march down the Strip on Friday, September 24, 2021.

In an unusual sight for the Strip teeming with tourists on a crowded Friday night, a tide of red-shirted protesters marched down Las Vegas Boulevard.

Amidst lively chants of “full-service cleaning” and “full-service restaurants,” hundreds of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 members crossed traffic lanes blocked by police.

The front of the line was occupied by station employees in working clothes: housekeepers, porters, bellboys, cocktail waiters and waiters. A woman in a kitchen suit was continually banging on an aluminum pot.

The case proceeded jovially, with tourists stopping on sidewalks and pedestrian bridges to assist – some even cheered.

It was the union’s “first big march” since the start of the pandemic. The union estimated attendance in the thousands, while Metro police put the number at around 550. Either way, it ended around 7 p.m. without a hitch, Lt. Joshua Younger said.

Why walk now?

Because despite the reopening of casinos and hotels, Culinary Union officials said about a third of its members – or about 21,000 workers – were left out of work some 19 months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. hit Nevada.

Many unemployed employees have now exhausted public unemployment benefits, they said.

For Nevada to “come back stronger”, the tourist experience depends on the resorts’ full staff, their rooms cleaned and disinfected daily, and restaurants that are properly run, which is not possible with a third of the workforce. ‘works at home, according to the longtime culinary secretary. -Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline.

Protesters marched south on Las Vegas Boulevard near Flamingo Road, cutting in the opposite direction on Harmon Avenue, before heading north on the boulevard, stopping outside Caesars Palace, where speakers addressed to the crowd from a makeshift pickup truck scene.

The organization said it had fought to get its employees back to work.

One of them is Adela Montes De Oca, a housekeeper for 12 years in Aria.

After leading chants of ‘union power’, Montes De Oca said in Spanish that the pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but that as a member of the Culinary Union, she feels lucky to be there. one of the 60,000 who were able to stay on the organization’s health care plan.

“Now it’s time,” she said. “We are ready to work. We mean ‘Las Vegas is open, Las Vegas is ready, we are ready to provide the best service our customers deserve.’ ”

Mario Sandoval, who worked at Binion’s Gambling Hall for 36 years, has not returned since he was put on leave last March. The company informed him of a new start date, which caused him to quit a part-time job, but they did not call him back.

Union spokeswoman Bethany Khan said Sandoval’s possible re-employment is covered by Senate Bill 386, which in part states that it requires “an employer to offer certain positions to a dismissed employee.” , according to the legislation.

“I’ve seen Las Vegas go through a lot of changes, but nothing like COVID-19,” Sandoval told the crowd.

But “the union has supported me all the way,” he said, noting the health insurance and food he provided during the pandemic.

“We are here today to tell you, Las Vegas and this country, that we are open and waiting for you,” said Sandoval. “We are ready to go back to work.

Casinos across the state have seen a surge in tourism to set monthly earnings records, and tourism officials have reported that the number of visitors in July was approaching the millions counted in July 2019 before the pandemic.

A UFC event was scheduled for Saturday at T-Mobile Arena, the NFL Las Vegas Raiders were scheduled to host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium, and NASCAR events were scheduled with no capacity restrictions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The resorts hosted shows ranging from productions by Cirque du Soleil Mystère, O, Michael Jackson One and Beatles Love to illusionists Penn & Teller and percussionists Blue Man Group.

At least 20 clubs of varying sizes have reopened following coronavirus closures, and the large Resorts World Las Vegas resort opened its new Zouk nightclub this month.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said he plans to meet with union leaders at the International Union of Elevator Builders’ international convention in Las Vegas on Monday, when he is expected to speak on the State’s plan. ‘try to use the recent legislation on banking infrastructure to create well-paying jobs. .

“Nevada’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is focused on creating jobs and supporting workers,” Sisolak said in a statement Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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