Culinary Union Wants Legislation to Protect Nevada Workers from Coronavirus, Cases Mount

Posted on: July 3, 2020, 11:40h. 

Last updated on: July 3, 2020, 12:37h.

Pressure is continuing to build on Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) and state legislators to enact a bill during next week’s special session that would require more safeguards to protect casino workers from coronavirus. One gaming property employee already has died after contracting the ailment.

Culinary Union Wants Bill
The legacy of Adolfo Fernandez, right, a worker at Caesars Palace, who died after contracting coronavirus, is leading the Culinary Union to push for a Nevada bill to promote employee health safety. (Image: Daily Mail)

The proposed legislation is backed by the Culinary Union and is named for Adolfo Fernandez, 51, a utility porter at Caesars Palace who died last month after testing positive for COVID-19.

It would require gaming properties to increase cleaning and social distancing, provide casino workers free tests before returning to work, provide temperature checks, as well as offer more employee training on COVID-19.

In total, 19 members of the Culinary Union and/or their family members died since March 1 from COVID-19, the union said in a recent statement. Next week’s special legislative session kicks off on Wednesday, July 8.

Adolfo Fernandez’s Death Is ‘Painful Loss’

“The Culinary Union … suffered a painful loss when our union brother, Adolfo Fernandez, contracted COVID-19 after working as a utility porter on the Las Vegas Strip and passed away,” according to the union’s letter to Sisolak.

In the letter, Irma Fernandez said her father tested negative for COVID-19 before returning to work.

“My father would tell me every day ‘I’m gonna get sick — the company is not keeping us safe.’ He would constantly tell me how stressed out he was,” Irma Fernandez said in the letter.

“He would call me on his break all the time to tell me about what was going on and how he was feeling. He would say that he didn’t want to go back to work, but he had to because he needed to financially support his family.

During the last three days of his life, my dad told me that his last wish was that he wanted justice and better safety precautions for workers,” Irma Fernandez added.

The letter, signed by Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, further told the governor, “Our state can’t afford to lose one more hotel and casino worker during this pandemic.”

The governor’s recent requirement that masks be worn in public places “is a great first step to slow the spread of COVID-19. But we believe more work must be done to fully protect Nevada’s workers and guests to ensure a full economic recovery,” Arguello-Kline said.

She also points out that Nevada has seen an increase in positive tests and hospitalizations in the last few weeks for coronavirus. As of Friday, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported 985 new COVID-19 cases and three new COVID-19-related deaths across Nevada.

This is the second-highest, single-day increase in cases for Nevada, KLAS, a local TV station, reported. As of Friday, there were 20,718 confirmed coronavirus cases and 528 deaths in Nevada.

Latinos, Other Communities of Color Impacted

“It’s even more troubling that COVID-19 in Nevada is disproportionally effecting [sic] communities of color,” Arguello-Kline added in the letter to Sisolak. “As of July 1st, over 40 percent of positive COVID-19 cases were from the Latinx community, which is extremely concerning for the Culinary Union, as 54 percent of members we represent are Latinx,” the letter explained.

“Workers fear that they will contract the virus and bring it home to their families or possibly die from it,” the letter added. “This is an incredible burden that no worker should have to deal with — and this fear is not just limited to Culinary Union members.”

Earlier this week, the Culinary Union filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Las Vegas against Harrah’s Las Vegas, the Signature Condominium towers at the MGM Grand, and the Bellagio casino. It sought increased coronavirus safety measures.

Last month, a security guard, Robert Washington Jr., who worked at Chandler, Arizona’s Gila River Casino Lone Butte, passed away from complications associated with the coronavirus, the Arizona Republic newspaper reported.