Legislative Dems killed daily room cleaning mandate. Culinary Union threatens to strike over it.
Culinary members picketing on the Strip Oct. 13. (Photo courtesy of Culinary Local 226).
As the Culinary Union warns it will strike in the coming weeks if resorts don’t agree to increase wages, reduce housekeeping quotas and mandate daily room cleanings, union leadership blamed legislative Democrats for getting rid of the law requiring everyday room cleanings in the first place.
Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said Democratic leadership “turned its back” on union workers when it repealed pandemic-era legislation that required daily room cleanings. He added that the union would “strike because of that issue and it didn’t have to be that way.”
Senate Bill 441, which repealed the daily cleaning requirement adopted in July 2020, was carried by Democratic state Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop during the recent legislative session and signed into law by Republic Gov. Joe Lombardo in May.
The bill didn’t receive complete Democratic consensus, with nine assembly Democrats and three senate Democrats voting against the measure.
“Our guest room attendants spent a lot of time at the legislature trying to explain to these Democratic legislators what these jobs are and what the issue of daily room cleanings is all about,” he said. “Other than a few (lawmakers) standing up to leadership, there was a deaf ear to these workers.”
Nevada Current reached out to the Nevada Senate and Assembly Democratic Caucuses to see if Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro or Speaker Steve Yeager wanted to comment. Neither responded.
In September, members of Culinary Workers Local 226 voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if resort corporations didn’t agree to labor’s contract demands. The union has recently picketed outside several properties in order to pressure resorts while negotiating a new five-year contract.
“We have not set a deadline (for a strike) but I can tell you it’s going to happen in the next few weeks and certainly before Formula One,” which is slated to take place in mid-November, said Pappageorge on Monday. “We need this to get resolved.”
In addition to securing wage increases and mandating room cleanings, the union wants contracts to provide employees greater protections against the threats posed by emerging technologies that could replace jobs. The Culinary is also seeking contract provisions to extend “recall rights” that enable workers to return to jobs in the event of another pandemic or economic crisis.
The union has publicly stated that it is seeking “the largest wage increases ever negotiated in the history of the Culinary Union,” but Pappageorge wouldn’t share specifics of the union’s wage increase request.
“We may be a little different than some other unions but there is a line we don’t cross on just bargaining in public,” he said.
In recent talks that have transpired between the union and MGM Resorts, Caesars, and Wynn, Pappageorge said that they are currently “dollars apart.”
“We literally had no movement or movement that was so little it felt insulting from these large companies,” he said.
As the union attempts to apply pressure on the industry, it recently released a report titled “The Human Cost of High Hotel Profits” that includes survey results from more than 1,800 guest room attendants between April and August of this year.
“When these women talk about the majority of them using pain relievers to get through their work day since the pandemic, that stuff is just stunning,” Pappageorge said.
The report notes that room rates “have increased 29% from 2019 to 2023” and that resorts including MGM Resorts and Wynn have “seen their operating profits in Las Vegas reach record levels.”
Guest room attendants were surveyed on working conditions. According to the report:
- 95% of guest room attendants indicated that they traveled to a guest room outside their normal work area only to find the room didn’t require services;
- 77% of attendants reported they had to decline in-person requests to clean a room because they hadn’t been assigned the room by management;
- 79% reported their employer did not provide a credit-reduction in their daily room quota when management had them waste time traveling to rooms outside of their service area that didn’t need service.
“Housekeeping is a very difficult job and only doing checkouts makes it even harder,” Maria Luisa Martinez, a guest room attendant, said in the survey. “Some ladies cry at the end of their shifts because of how much pain they are in.”
Threats to strike come as labor movements across the country, including auto workers, health care workers, and writers and actors, have walked off jobs to negotiate better salaries and work conditions.
Pappageorge said following the pandemic workers are realizing how companies view them as expendable despite using their labor to reap massive profits.
The resort industry, he said, is no different.
“These companies are setting records in profit margins and room rates,” he said. “These workers brought these companies through the pandemic. The question is. Are these companies going to do the right thing or turn their backs on the workers?”
Pappageorge said the union received a lot of support from passersby on recent picket lines because the demands being sought resonate with other workers.
“We’ve seen good support for our picket lines and think if there is a strike here we think customers are going to support those strikes,” he said.
This article was updated to correct the casinos the Culinary Union has threatened to strike.
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