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Union workers rally for right to return to jobs

Updated August 18, 2020 - 1:03 pm

Labor union members across several industries in Nevada are fighting for the right to return to work.

The Save Our Jobs union coalition gathered Tuesday morning to rally for the placement of a Right to Return ordinance on the Clark County Commission’s Sept. 1 agenda. The ordinance would require employers to offer workers the right to return to their jobs after being laid off or furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, once the business reopens and operations resume.

Most local Culinary union contracts say employers must recall a laid-off worker by seniority before hiring anyone new when a full-time position in his or her job classification returns. Culinary Workers Union Local 226 spokeswoman Bethany Khan said the right to be recalled typically lasts six months or to two years from the last day the employee worked.

Armando Rivera, a shop steward for Bartenders Local 165, said he attended Tuesday’s rally to fight to extend a worker’s right to return past the one-year mark and extend health care benefits to the end of the year.

Rivera is a former employee at HMSHost and one of the 940 employees set to be laid off by the food service provider at McCarran International Airport this October.

He said his benefits are scheduled to expire Oct. 31, and his right to return through his contract would expire a year after his last day of work.

“It is extremely difficult. It’s just living in fear every day,” he said. “We’re just here fighting for our rights to keep our health care, keep our jobs.”

Gloria Rodriguez, a member of the Culinary union and a former banquet server, said she attended Tuesday’s rally for her father, Rogelio Solis, a union official and Bellagio employee.

Her father was unable to attend after contracting COVID-19 and has been at University Medical Center hospital for the past five weeks, she said.

“My father … is usually at every single rally,” Rodriquez said.

“We just want to make sure that, if we go back, we actually get the first call back before they hire people from the outside. Especially if they open our restaurant,” she said. “For all of us in general, we’re just really afraid. We need our jobs, we need our insurance.”

While the rally was union-led, the ordinance would apply to both union and nonunion workers.

Grace Vergara-Mactal, executive director of Service Employees International Union, Local 1107, said the rally is about protecting all workers during the pandemic.

“It’s actually better for the businesses to (rehire former employees) because there are less resources to spend on training,” she said. “We’ve got to respect the seniority of workers. They’ve spent their time working with their employers and they should have the right to get first in line.”

Save Our Jobs represents roughly 87,000 workers across the state from hospitality and conventions to entertainment and health care, according to a Monday news release.

The coalition in support of the ordinance includes Bartenders Local 165, Culinary Local 226, Stagehands Local 720, National Nurses United, Operating Engineers Local 501, SEIU Local 1107, Teamsters Local 986, Teamsters Local 631, and United Auto Workers Local 3555.

Additional unions and organizations throughout the state are in the process of joining, according to the statement.

This story has been updated to clarify that a union worker’s right to be recalled typically lasts 6 months to two years.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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