Culinary Unionists Call on Health District to Investigate Hotel and Casinos for Violating State Law

Culinary unionists called for justice and daily room cleaning at a rally on Thursday for Southern Nevada’s health district.

Hundreds of room attendants and other hotel and casino employees gathered in the parking lot around 5:30 p.m. demanding that the department investigate employers for violating a law that, in part, requires hotels and other lodging facilities in Clark and Washoe counties to clean the room daily.

Union leaders said they had heard from workers that there was no daily cleaning.

The law, passed in August 2020 and amended in June, requires daily room cleaning, enhanced cleaning, hand washing, masks and training, and testing and contact tracing. According to the union, it includes more than 300,000 workers in Nevada.

Ted Pappageorge, president of Culinary Local 226 led the crowd in chants from the bed of a pickup truck.

“What do we want?” Pappageorge early. “Justice!” the crowd responded. “When do we want it?” “Utilities!”

“Our goal today is to send a message to the industry that these rooms should be cleaned on a daily basis,” Pappageorge said. “To do that, you have to bring back enough workers to clean that well.”

He said businesses that don’t clean their rooms on a daily basis could use fewer employees, meaning those who show up have to work throughout the hotel.

“These hotel jobs are good jobs, but they’re very physical jobs,” Pappageorge said. “They are incredibly difficult jobs.”

Diana Thomas, 55, works at the Flamingo and has worked as a chambermaid for over 20 years. She said she suffers from back pain and has first hand experience working all over the hotel as there was no daily cleaning of the rooms. As a guest room employee, Thomas cleans a hotel room while the guests are away.

“If we’re all over the hotel, who’s hurting?” she said. “Me. I’m not an automaton. I’m human.”

Thomas, Mirian Cervantes, Bally’s room attendant, cocktail waitress Alicia Sosa, Nevada State American Federation of Labor chief Susie Martinez, and Clark County Commissioner and Health District Board member Tick Segerblom delivered speeches at the meeting.

“I work so hard and I am proud of the quality of my work,” Cervantes told the crowd in Spanish. “I try to get my room quota every day, but orders are confusing. The work is intense and I am exhausted.”

Cervantes has worked as a guest housekeeper for 14 years.

The group walked from the parking lot to a main entrance to the health district, singing as they walked. A smaller group held plates and called for justice. The group returned to the truck and ended the rally with Pappageorge leading the group in a chant of “Union, union, union” as everyone clapped their heads at the right moment.

Before working at Aria, Sosa worked at The Mirage and Mandalay Bay. Sosa said she and her fellow union members fought for the law and want companies to follow it.

“It makes me feel good,” Sosa said of seeing everyone at the rally. “We will be stronger than ever. We have to stick together to make it strong.”

Culinary spokeswoman Bethany Khan said 20,000 of the 60,000 members the union represents are unemployed. She said union members have “recall rights” in their contracts that protect job security and wages. The 40,000 members who have returned to work have been able to do so thanks to those rights.

“We cannot leave these workers behind,” Khan said of those who are still unemployed. “If business resumes, employees should come back, and we said so.”

Health District spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore said on Thursday that the department “systematically inspects all regulated facilities and responds to complaints.”

“We are aware of the rally and have not yet received the complaints referred to,” she added.

Khan said the union sent workers’ statements to the health district at the meeting and hoped investigations would follow, particularly from Bally’s and Flamingo.

“We expect this to happen now,” Pappageorge said. “This is the first step.”

Officials of Caesar’s Entertainment Corp. did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. To follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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