Culinary Union calls on Governor Sisolak, the Nevada Legislature, and casino companies to protect workers



Friday, July 17th, 2020


Bethany Khan: ▪ (702) 387-7088

Culinary Union calls on Governor Sisolak, the Nevada Legislature, and casino companies to protect workers

Las Vegas, NV – The Culinary Union calls on Governor Sisolak, the Nevada Legislature, and casino companies to do more to protect workers. Since March 1, 2020, 22 Culinary and Bartenders Union members and their spouses or dependents have died from COVID-19. 

Through July 15, 2020, 352 Culinary and Bartenders Union members and their spouses or dependents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19. The number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations for Culinary and Bartenders Union members and their spouses or dependents has increased 860% since Governor Sisolak allowed Nevada casinos to reopen on June 4, 2020 (from 5 patients in hospital on June 4 to 43 patients in the hospital on July 16).

“Behind every worker in this state there is a family,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union. “Governor Sisolak, the Nevada Legislature, and casino companies must do everything they can to ensure workers and their families are protected from the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. When workers are protected, our entire community - from the hospitality industry to customers and locals are protected. 

“My mom has been in the hospital for almost a week and is barely able to breathe on her own. She was exposed to someone who had COVID-19 at work,” said Sara Kalaoram, the daughter of Stella Kalaoram, a Culinary Union member and guest room attendant at The Cosmopolitan. “Now, my dad, my younger teenage brother, and I are all positive for COVID-19 and we are really worried. I’ve watched my mom’s health get worse everyday since early July when she got the positive test and it’s hard for my family because we can’t even visit my mom in the hospital right now.”

“I work in the front outside of the casino where customers are frequently not wearing a face mask,” said Leain Vashon, a bell captain at Caesars Entertainment’s Paris Las Vegas Casino. “I’m worried about getting COVID-19 and then transmitting it to my family. I would feel safer if my casino company required all workers to be tested regularly for the virus.”


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 the following areas on

  1. Requiring daily cleaning of guest rooms.
  2. Mandatory testing of all employees for COVID-19 before returning to work and regular testing thereafter. 
  3. Providing adequate COVID-19 PPE for employees.
  4. Enforcing social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures.
  5. Requiring guests to wear face masks in all public areas - The Culinary Union has been calling for all customers to wear masks in public spaces since early May. A mandatory mask policy is a good step towards protecting workers and the hospitality industry in Nevada, but much more has to be done.
  6. Posting a COVID-19 safety plan on public-facing website - After months of advocating for increased transparency, the Culinary Union is pleased that most major gaming companies have posted their COVID-19 safety plans on their public-facing websites.


Nevada has seen a concerning rise of positive tests and hospitalizations in the last few weeks. As the largest organization of Black, Latinx, Asian, and immigrant workers in Nevada, it’s troubling that COVID-19 is disproportionally impacting communities of color. 

Workers fear that they will contract the virus and bring it home to their families or possibly die from it. This is an incredible burden that no worker should have to deal with – and this fear is not just limited to Culinary Union members. All hotel and casino workers – union and non-union throughout the state are living with this same fear each day they go to work.

Adolfo Fernandez, contracted COVID-19 after being employed as a utility porter on the Las Vegas Strip, and passed away.  

Adolfo’s daughter, Irma, recently shared some reflections of her father: “My father was an amazing hard-working man. Before he went back to work, he was tested negative for COVID-19. My father would tell me every day ‘I’m gonna get sick - the company is not keeping us safe.’ He would constantly tell me how stressed out he was. He would call me on his break all the time to tell me about what was going on and how he was feeling. He would say that he didn’t want to go back to work, but he had to because he needed to financially support his family. My father always fought for justice and for his coworkers to be respected at work, but now he was taken away to be in heaven. During the last three-days of his life, my dad told me that his last wish was that he wanted justice and better safety precautions for workers.”

Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union sent a letter to Governor Sisolak and Nevada Legislators requesting the Adolfo Fernandez Bill be placed on the agenda for the upcoming NVLEG 2020 special session. 

The Adolfo Fernandez Bill addresses public health and would mandate: 

*Enhanced cleaning procedures such as daily room cleaning.

*Enforce social distancing.

*Free testing for all workers before going back to work or those that have been exposed to COVID-19.

*Temperature-checks for workers.

*Detailed plans of action for when a worker contracts COVID-19 or is exposed to someone with the virus.

*Enhanced safety training for all employees.


Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, Nevada affiliates of UNITE HERE, represent 60,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno, including at most of the casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas. UNITE HERE represents 300,000 workers in gaming, hotel, and food service industries in North America.  

The Culinary Union, through the Culinary Health Fund, is one of the largest healthcare consumers in the state. The Culinary Health Fund is sponsored by the Culinary Union and Las Vegas-area employers. It provides health insurance coverage for over 145,000 Nevadans, the Culinary Union’s members and their dependents.   

The Culinary Union is Nevada’s largest immigrant organization with members who come from 178 countries and speak over 40 different languages. We are proud to have helped over 18,000 immigrants become American citizens and new voters since 2001 through our affiliate, The Citizenship Project. 

The Culinary Union has a diverse membership -- approximately 55% women, 54% Latinx, 19% White, 15% Asian, 10% Black, and less than 1% Indigenous Peoples — and consists of guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, bartenders, laundry and kitchen workers. The Culinary Union has been fighting for fair wages, job security, and good health benefits for workers in Nevada for 85 years. / @Culinary226 


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