Las Vegas Unions, Workers Demand Employers Bring Back Furloughed Jobs

Posted on: August 19, 2020, 12:32h. 

Last updated on: August 19, 2020, 01:31h.

Las Vegas unions and workers are pushing for a local ordinance in Clark County that would require employers to bring back their jobs once the COVD-19 pandemic subsides.

Las Vegas casino union Culinary
Las Vegas unions picketed outside the Clark County Commission Chambers Tuesday to demand they require employers to return their jobs. (Image: Culinary Workers Union Local 226)

This week, several labor unions took to the streets to campaign for a “Right to Return” ordinance. The “Save Our Jobs” coalition includes 10 unions that collectively represent approximately 87,000 workers in Nevada. The main casino unions, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, are among the alliance.

The ordinance, if introduced and approved by the Clark County Commission, would require employers in several industries to offer all workers, union, and non-union, with an opportunity to go back to their jobs once the business reopens or resumes normal operations.

We want people to have peace of mind, to get through the pandemic, and still have jobs,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the secretary-treasurer of the powerful Culinary Union.

“Every one of those workers should have the right to come back to their previous jobs when business resumes,” a statement by the coalition said.

When Business Resumes?

Nevada casinos were permitted to begin reopening on June 4 but under a series of strict regulations and a 50 percent occupancy cap. With the exception of a handful of properties, the Las Vegas Strip has resumed operations under a “new normal,” with occupancy low.

In the two months since turning their slot machines back on, the casino resorts most certainly haven’t required their full complement of workers. Visitor volume in June was down 70.5 percent.

MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call that Las Vegas hotel occupancy is in the 30s during the week, and 50s on the weekends. Nevada’s largest employer and operator of the most Strip casinos says it has brought back less than 50 percent of its employees.

Corey Sanders, treasurer and CFO of MGM, says workers shouldn’t expect the phone to ring anytime soon.

“We have brought back less than 50 percent of our employees based on what we’re allowed to do and I’m not sure we’ll see a change in that any time in the near future,” stated Sanders.

Employee Legal Rights

Unless the Clark County Commission acts on the union’s “Right to Return” demand, workers have little legal recourse to get their hours back.

Under the law in most states [including Nevada], if there’s no employment contract, workers are employed on an ‘at-will’ basis. That means employers have the right to fire employees at any time for any reason or no reason at all, and, conversely, employees have the right to leave the organization at any time,” explains Business Management Daily.

However, most Nevada casino workers do have contracts through their union. MGM Resorts workers, for instance, have safeguards in their “Recall from Layoff” section.

MGM must offer extra and part-time work to laid off union workers in their job classification by seniority. Laid off workers do not have to accept the part-time work, and would, therefore, be placed on a waiting list to be recalled to their full-time job. Workers who opt for the second option are also recalled based on seniority.