Culinary Workers Threaten Lawsuit Over ‘Dangerously Inadequate’ COVID-19 Safety Protocols at Vegas Casinos

Posted on: June 27, 2020, 11:31h. 

Last updated on: June 30, 2020, 02:28h.

The largest union in Nevada announced on Saturday it intends to file a lawsuit on Monday against “major Las Vegas Strip casino companies” to protect workers from COVID-19.

Union vegas lawsuit
A worker at the Bellagio sanitizes a seat after a guest left the blackjack table on June 4, the first day the Las Vegas casino reopened after being shuttered for nearly three months due to COVID-19. (Image: Ethan Miller/Getty)

The Culinary Union plans to hold an online press conference at 11 am PT Monday to discuss the proposed suit. Among those scheduled to speak will be the daughter of a union member who recently died from COVID-19.

The union claimed it will seek injunctive relief under the Federal Labor-Management Relations Act, also known as the Taft-Hartley Act, claiming the gaming companies have subjected employees to unsafe working conditions since the casinos began reopening in Nevada on June 4.

The lawsuit alleges casino hotels have not protected workers, their families, and their community from the spread of COVID-19, and that the current rules and procedures in place for responding to workers contracting COVID-19 have been wholly and dangerously inadequate,” the union said in a statement issued Saturday.

The threat to go to court comes one day after an order issued by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) requiring individuals to wear masks or other protective facial equipment in public, including casinos. That had been a request the union made when it issued its own guidelines for reopening casinos last month.

Union’s COVID-19 Recommendations

Besides requiring guests to wear masks at all times in public areas, the union’s plan also called for company-provided testing both before workers returned to the casinos and then during regular intervals while the COVID-19 emergency is in effect. The Culinary Union also sought strict enforcement of social distancing protocols, daily cleaning of all guest rooms, an adequate supply of protective equipment, and the casinos to post their safety plan online.

The Culinary Union outlines several other recommendations in a seven-page checklist available online. On its web site, the union tracks whether 36 casinos in the state are meeting those recommendations.

Through Thursday, the Culinary Union said only two hotels — the Cosmopolitan and the El Cortez — are known to be cleaning all guest rooms daily. While 33 of the casinos have posted their safety plans, three — Binion’s, Circus Circus Las Vegas, and Four Queens — have not.

Bethany Khan, a spokesperson for the union, told last month that companies being able to develop their own plans and not publish them set up the gaming community for a disaster.

The response to testing availability is more divided. The union’s site says 11 are offering COVID-19 testing, but 14 others aren’t. There’s no information available on the remainder.

Inside the Union

The Culinary Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165 represent 60,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno and represent workers at several Strip resorts.

The organization stands as one of the more diverse labor groups in the US, with members representing nearly 180 countries and fluent in more than 40 languages.

As the largest labor organization in the state, it plays a major role in Nevada politics. The union opted not to endorse a candidate in the state’s Democratic presidential caucus and raised concerns about healthcare reform pushed by US Sen. Bernie Sanders. who ended up winning the caucus.

The proposed reforms could affect the insurance the union has secured for nearly 150,000 union members and their families.