Members of UNITE HERE, including 60,000 workers of Culinary Local 226, are in immediate need of unemployment benefits, health care, food, housing and sick leave, says president D. Taylor.
“I represent 300,000 members but I’m speaking on behalf of millions of workers,” Taylor said during a Wednesday morning teleconference with reporters.
He also wants workers to have a say in talks with Congress and captains of industry as they negotiate bailouts.
“We’re looking for $150 billion,” he said of the relief sought by the hotel industry, including gaming. “We don’t believe in trickle-down. We believe in bottom-up.”
“This is an enormous crisis and I have to say I’m very worried the American worker is not at the table,” Taylor said. “We are often in the shadows. What we’re asking for today is a bailout for the American worker, not just a bailout for American industry.”
“They’ve met with the titans of industry and that’s great,” Taylor said of Congress. “I’ve been hearing people might get a thousand dollars. In most major cities that won’t even cover rent for a month.”
Taylor praised Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International for paying employees during hotel closures and said employers who take care of workers should be rewarded in relief plans.
Gaming, once confined to Nevada, has long been the “red-headed stepchild” of the hospitality and lodging industries.
“The ironic thing is many of the gaming companies have more hotel rooms” than non-gaming properties, he said. “Gaming still has a stigma. Unfortunately. It’s a good thing it’s hooked up with the American Hotel and Lodging Association.”
The casino industry is seeking federal emergency aid.
“This is an unprecedented economic situation that will have serious financial ramifications for individuals, families, businesses and state and local budgets across the state,” Nevada Resort Association president Virginia Valentine said in a statement to the Current Tuesday, noting tourism is“the lifeblood of the state’s economy, generating nearly $68 billion annually in statewide economic output; contributing almost 40 percent of the state’s general fund revenue; and, supporting more than 450,000 jobs statewide.”
“No other state’s economy depends on travel and tourism — and particularly gaming — the way Nevada’s does,” Valentine said.
“We continue to stress the critical necessity that our industry be included in any federal measures regarding recovery, stimulus and relief measures for the long-term health of Nevada’s economy,” Valentine said of the industry’s discussions with the state’s congressional delegation.
“We anticipate anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of our members will not be working,” Taylor said of UNITE HERE, which represents airline workers, housekeepers, wait staff and others throughout the nation.
“We need an unemployment system that is speedy, efficient and actually works, and reflects workers’ languages,” he said, hours after an unprecedented en masse closure of Nevada casinos.
Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline added the union represents workers from 180 nations.
“They speak all different languages,” she said.
Taylor called for an increase in unemployment benefits, noting Florida workers receive only about $1,100 a month. Nevada’s unemployment benefit is about $1,700 a month.
“The unemployment benefit has to go up. That’s more valuable than a one-time hit of cash,” Taylor said, questioning whether the payments promised by the Trump administration would materialize. “Remember, we were told everyone would have easy access to a test. It’s a lie.”
Taylor also wants the federal government to subsidize health insurance premiums for workers who are laid off.
“Most employees lose insurance the last day of the month they were laid off. Congress has not addressed this,” he said. “9/11 was a security crisis. The Great Recession was a financial crisis. This is a health care crisis yet people who need it are losing it.”
“We have people, still to this day, choosing between missing a paycheck or going to work sick,” he said. “We need to have sick leave pay.”
Taylor declined to get political when asked about the allure of Medicare for All during a public health crisis.
“We need people with health care now,” he said, adding policy can be made in the future. “People are going to lose their health care at the end of this month, if not today.”