Union Leaders Demand More Health Safeguards Before Casinos Reopen

Posted on: May 6, 2020, 06:07h. 

Last updated on: May 6, 2020, 11:22h.

Leaders of gaming property unions, such as Unite Here and the Culinary Union, want to see “stringent protocols” in place before gaming venues reopen in Nevada and in other states. Current reopening plans from companies and state agencies are insufficient given the coronavirus risk, the unions claim.

Gaming Unions Demand Health Safeguards
Unite Here International President D. Taylor demanded that comprehensive precautions be in place before casinos reopen. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

During a Tuesday press conference, Unite Here International President D. Taylor complimented “extensive” reopening plans released by Wynn Resorts about two weeks ago. The union said even those proposals can be improved upon.

But more generally, proposals from other companies and the reopening policy recently released by Nevada’s Gaming Control Board are insufficient, Taylor said.

Under Nevada’s policy, specific restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus must be included in casino reopening plans. They range from social distancing, to limits on the number of players on gaming floors, to caps on players at individual tables.

“We wouldn’t be releasing our own plan” if other reopening procedures were adequate, Taylor explained. “Clearly, the industry has not put out comprehensive plans.”

He says state governments and gaming control boards “have to be the policemen.” He also wants a transparent reopening process.

This is not going to be like a meat packing plant where you can’t go inside,” Taylor said. “We will be very vocal and aggressive about that.”

Casino companies also need to work with unions to ensure a healthy and safe environment when casinos reopen, among other recommended steps, he said. If casino companies do not collaborate with unions and employees in the reopening process, state gaming regulators should take appropriate steps, the union adds.

The unions have called for testing of casino workers for coronavirus. Every worker should be tested for COVID-19 before he/she goes back to work, and the casino should pay for it, especially since an estimated 25 percent of coronavirus carriers can be asymptomatic.

If a worker is positive for COVID-19, the sick employee should be placed on paid leave.

When antibody tests become available, workers should be given those tests. Casinos again should cover the cost.

The unions also want temperatures checked daily of employees and guests when they enter casinos. Thermal technology should be used.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be “widely available” to employees and guests, Taylor adds. Also, there should be efforts to reduce the number of surfaces touched by multiple people.

And casinos should clean surfaces more frequently and intensively. Workers should get training and sufficient time to undertake the appropriate cleaning. Cleaning standards should be based on protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Distance should be ensured between employees and guests in casinos. Each casino should enact “authority, accountability, and monitoring” procedures to follow the health precautions, the union said.

That includes setting up joint labor-management health and safety committees. That way, unions and workers can have input into the reopening process.

Politicians Criticized by Unite Here

“There has to be state or municipality enforcement and mandates,” Taylor said. “We have seen already, for example, the mayor of Las Vegas essentially say, ‘Just open it up.’ We’ll see what happens.”

Taylor does not want workers to become like rats in a lab. “We can’t rely on politicians like this,” he said.

“The gaming control board in every single one of these states can determine when somebody opens and how they open and function. If that is not used, then I think every public official who is responsible for the gaming control board should be scrutinized, and frankly should be held accountable, if workers and guests become infected. Because we have not taken steps necessary to protect the workers and to protect the public from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Taylor warned against casinos taking “shortcuts. There can be no volunteerism by companies to do the right thing.”

Taylor also called upon states to get residents delinquent unemployment checks promptly

They are starving people back to work,” Taylor said. “I think this is deliberate, in many cases.”

The governors in states where unemployment relief has yet to be paid are “either incompetent” or they are “starving people back to work,” Taylor said.

Also, unions are demanding transparent health and safety protocols from casino reopening plans. Casinos have confidential plans as of now under state guidelines.

Coronavirus Represents Life and Death Situation

Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union, said workers and their families are facing issues from the pandemic that are “life and death.”

“This has been very painful, … painful emotionally, economically, and we’ve been losing members, and their families, too,” Arguello-Kline said. “You cannot replace a mother. And you cannot replace a father.”

“The workers we represent, they are in the front lines,” she added. They are food servers, cleaners of casino floors and hotel rooms, attendants, cooks, etc.

People need to work. But they want to work safe,” Arguello-Kline said.

Initially, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak shuttered casinos on March 17 because of the pandemic. The closings were extended, and now properties will not be reopened until at least later this month.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has called upon the governor to reopen the state soon.