Casino union threatens suit over inadequate COVID-19 protections


Like it or not, unions play a role in business operations. Most companies would prefer that unions go the way of the T-Rex (although there are some that actually embrace the syndicates), but that’s only wishful thinking. The casino industry has come under fire in recent years for the overall treatment industry employees receive, and their response to the coronavirus has put even more pressure on the casino operators. Now, the largest casino employee union in the U.S. is planning on suing Las Vegas casinos for not doing a better job at providing safety protections for their workers. 

Las Vegas casinos began reopening on June 4 and, since then, there has been a mixed response by the properties on how they oversee employee activity. There has also been a spike in coronavirus cases, and the Culinary Union feels that the casinos should have been more proactive in protecting their workers as soon as the keys were turned on the doors. It wants to ask a judge for relief under the Labor-Management Relations Act, a federal law that was created to force employers to provide employees with a safe and secure working environment at all times. 

The union will hold an online press conference today, according to a press release issued by Director of Communication and Digital Strategy Bethany Khan this past Saturday. In the meantime, she explains, “The lawsuit alleges casino hotels have not protected workers, their families, and their community from the spread of COVID-19, and that the current rules and procedures in place for responding to workers contracting COVID-19 have been wholly and dangerously inadequate.”

Over 60,000 casino employees across Las Vegas and Reno are represented by the Culinary Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165. The two had already been pushing for better protection as casinos reopened, including the issuance of face masks and the implementation of mandatory testing. However, not all of the gaming properties were willing to introduce the measures. According to the union, only 11 operators provide testing for their employees, while more than 55% do not.

Local 226 explains, “Culinary Union’s lawsuit focuses on the companies’ failure to properly warn workers, disinfect, and quarantine when a worker or their co-worker tests positive for COVID-19. The Culinary Union is demanding safety for all hospitality and gaming workers in Nevada and is tracking what casino employers are doing to prevent COVID-19…”

In addition, according to the union, only two hotels are cleaning guest rooms on a daily basis, a condition ordered by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak as the economy started to come back online. Most venues have their safety plans in place, but three – Binion’s, Circus Circus Las Vegas and Four Queens – still do not, according to the website maintained by Local 226.

Sisolak just made face masks mandatory in the state as of last Friday. The move came in response to the spike in COVID-19 cases, and the governor said when announcing the change last Wednesday, “I’m offering us all another opportunity to limit our risk for exposure and infection and to keep our businesses open and our economy moving. For Nevada to stay safe and stay open, we must make face coverings a routine part of our daily life.”