By Sabrina Schnur Las Vegas Review-Journal September 24, 2021 – 7:41 pm
Thousands of chefs, housekeepers, bartenders, bellhops and waiters who are members of the Culinary union marched along the Strip Friday night to urge casinos to call them back to work.
Culinary Local 226 said 21,000 members, or 35 percent, have been out of work locally since the start of the pandemic, according to a statement from the union. Local 226 represents 300,000 workers in gaming, hotel and food service across North America, including 60,000 Las Vegas members.
“Stop working with a skeleton crew,” said Mario Sandoval, a former Binion’s waiter who laid off in March 2020 after 36 years at the casino. “We are ready to work. The tourists are here. Bring us back.”
He found a part-time job in July but said he quit when he was told that Binion’s would need him again that same month. He was never called back to start work.
“Even as a customer I go in to gamble, and I can’t even get a drink,” he said. “There’s no cocktail servers working.”
Housekeeper Regina Wright said many of her co-workers still don’t know if they’ve been fired because they were laid off 18 months ago and sit in limbo.
“It’s time for employees to return,” she said, noting how busy the Strip was Friday night. “We are busy again.”
Union members chanted “daily room cleaning,” “union power” and “si se puede” — “yes we can” — as they marched north and south through several lanes of Las Vegas Boulevard.
“We want customers; we’re ready to serve,” said union spokeswoman Bethany Khan. “We’re here to let Las Vegas and the world know. We want to go back to work. We’re ready to serve, clean and sanitize.”
The union did not target specific casinos because Khan said every Las Vegas casino employs union members in some capacity.
“We want them all to come back to work,” said housekeeper Viola Varor. “I came back last year, but most people didn’t get called.”
Union secretary Geoconda Arguello-Kline rallied the group after the march, leading a chant of “back to work.”
“We have 65 percent of the people back to work, but we still have 21,000 people still at home,” she said. “We want full service cleaning, full service restaurants. Invite everyone in Vegas to say, ‘We want full service again.’”
Arguello-Kline estimated about 5,000 union members marched Friday night.