Culinary Union Sues Las Vegas Casinos over Health and Safety Concerns

A Las Vegas casino workers union is suing three Strip properties, claiming that unionized employees are not protected properly from coronavirus exposure in their workplace.

The Culinary Union Local 226, which represents some 60,000 housekeepers, cooks, bartenders, valets, and other workers at casino resorts across Las Vegas, filed on Monday a lawsuit in the US District Court in Las Vegas that seeks injunctive relief under the Labor-Management Relations Act for dangerous working conditions.

The lawsuit names The Signature at MGM Grand, Sadelle’s Cafe at the Bellagio, and Guy Fieri Las Vegas Kitchen and Bar at Harrah’s as defendants.

According to the 29-page legal complaint, 19 Culinary Union representatives or members of their family have died from Covid-19-related complications. Nevada’s casinos, including those in Las Vegas, closed in mid-March to help curb the spread of the dangerous coronavirus. The properties reopened June 4.

The lawsuit accuses the three Strip resorts for not taking measures to properly protect employees. According to the legal complaint, workers had direct interaction with unmasked guests and had to deal with staff shortages that forced them to perform a number of different roles.

Last week, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak issued an order requiring face masks and other face coverings to be worn by everyone in public, including gamblers inside Las Vegas’ resorts. Face masks were only voluntary for guests prior Gov. Sisolak’s order.

Workers Want to Work Safe

Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline said Monday that union members “want to work, but they want to work safe and that they are “going to do whatever we need to do to protect these workers, these families, and this community.”

The lawsuit does not directly cite Adolfo Fernandez, a 51-year-old utility porter at Caesars Palace who died last week after contracting Covid-19, but his daughter, Irma Fernandez, said that her father expressed deep fear about the dangerous virus after returning to work and that he was really stressed out.

The civil complaint notes that the three properties “recognized the critical importance of mask-wearing … by requiring their own employees to wear masks at all times”, but despite “overwhelming evidence of the importance of mandating facial coverings by guests in public areas of casinos and hotels […] defendants, along with other casinos and hotels in southern Nevada only ‘encouraged’ guests to wear face masks.”

The lawsuit further said that “this irresponsible act undoubtedly led to spread of Covid-19.” It seeks a court order to force the defendants and other Las Vegas casino resorts to tighten their safety measures to better protect workers from falling ill.

Both Caesars Entertainment Corp. and MGM Resorts International, the companies that own the resorts named in the lawsuit, last week implemented universal mask policies across their properties, making face masks and coverings mandatory for everyone in their properties, including workers, guests, vendors contractors, and passersby.

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