The over 50,000 members of UNITE HERE’s Culinary and Bartenders unions will vote May 22 on whether or not to authorize a strike once their contract expires June 1. The two unions include bartenders, guest room attendants, cocktail servers, food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks and kitchen workers.
“You either show up and fight for what you deserve, or you give up and take whatever the company gives you,” Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of Culinary Workers Union Local 226, said in a May 9 news release. The contract covers 34 casino resorts and hotels in Las Vegas.
“Workplace safety is one of the main issues, along with wage increases and retaining health care benefits,” Bethany Khan, spokesperson for Local 226, told the Militant in a phone interview May 14.
The union is pushing for measures to protect workers from sexual harassment. “We’ve heard stories of women cocktail servers facing harassment and the company not doing anything,” Kahn said. “We’re demanding safety buttons for workers on the floor and to make sure the radio and Wi-Fi work in the towers where guest room attendants work.”
Also of concern are the bosses’ plans to replace some workers with robots. “Robotic bartenders, concierges, room service are all in the pipeline,” Khan said.
The Culinary Union says it is the state’s largest immigrant organization. Some 54 percent of the union’s members are Latino and 55 percent are women. The union has participated in May Day and other protests to demand, “No deportations.”
A 1984 citywide strike by the union lasted 67 days.