Make masks mandatory, Culinary says

Screenshot of Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for Culinary Union, during remarks to the media Monday.
Screenshot of Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary, during remarks to the media via video Monday.

Nevada’s largest union is calling for state and local leaders to require visitors to wear masks in all public spaces.

The Culinary Union Local 226, which represents about 60,000 casino workers, is asking the Nevada Gaming Control Board to adopt mandatory face masks for all employees and guests on the casino floor as well as temperature checks for anyone who enters a hotel. The union is also demanding mandatory and regular testing of all frontline employees in casino hotels and daily cleaning of rooms. 

“We’ve been asking the leadership of the state to listen to the people of Nevada and the union is going to do whatever it takes to take care of health and safety,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for Culinary Union, adding that the union was prepared to take legal action if necessary, in remarks to the press Monday.

Union leadership applauded last week’s Gaming Control Board decision to require face masks at table and card games that do not offer a shield between the dealer and each player, but said it was not enough to protect workers now that cases of COVID-19 are rising.

“Workers are afraid right now, they know the situation,” Argüello-Kline said. “The numbers are not going down, they are going up and we know that.”

Pointing to California as an example, union leadership also called on Nevada state leaders to follow California’s lead by requiring mandatory face masks in all public spaces statewide

“We need to do what California is doing right now,” Arguello-Kline said.

Last month, Southern Nevada Health District Acting Chief Health Officer Fermin Leguen recommended that all frontline employees such as housekeepers and restaurant and casino staff be tested before resorts reopen, and retested once every two weeks for the first month and then monthly until the end of Phase 3.

The union is now tracking what casino employers are doing to prevent COVID-19 on their website.

Culinary’s list of demands includes:

  • Requiring daily cleaning of guest rooms
  • Mandatory testing of all employees for COVID-19 before returning to work and regular testing thereafter 
  • Providing adequate COVID-19 PPE for employees
  • Enforcing social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures
  • Requiring guests to wear face masks in all public areas
  • Posting a COVID-19 safety plan on public-facing website  

During the press conference, three resort industry workers spoke about their fear and concern about the lack of protections on the job, and said they estimate about 80 to 90 percent of guests fail to wear face masks.

“I have observed that guests are not wearing masks in public spaces,” said Yolanda Scott who works as a coffee shop food server at Treasure Island. “I don’t want to bring COVID-19 back to my family, to my children. My partner has a bad kidney and a bad heart and we have to be extra cautious.”

Diana Thomas, a Flamingo guest room attendant said she has a son with asthma with a history of complications and fears carrying the virus back home.

“It has made me feel very afraid,” Thomas said. “I want everybody to wear their mask. Everybody.”

According to the Culinary, at least 17 union workers or family members have died due to COVID-19.

“This is our community,” said Arguello-Kline. “We are asking for protection.”

Jeniffer Solis
Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.