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Debate over hotel room cleaning bill grows contentious in Nevada

Updated May 1, 2023 - 8:53 pm

An Assembly committee took up a bill that would repeal COVID-19 era cleaning standards for hotels, with opponents arguing hotels would no longer clean rooms daily and hotel representatives countering that they would ensure rooms are clean.

Senate Bill 441 passed the Senate on a bipartisan 18-to-3 vote and was heard Monday in the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor.

The bill would repeal Senate Bill 4, which was introduced in 2020 in response to COVID-19, requiring hotels in large counties like Clark and Washoe to follow the Department of Health and Human Services’ minimum standard of cleaning to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Opponents argue repealing daily room cleaning could have consequences for the health and satisfaction of hotel guests and could lead to a negative effect on Nevada’s tourism industry. Labor unions are also opposed, saying it will jeopardize hospitality workers’ safety and disproportionately impact low-wage, immigrant and minority workers.

Will my room still get cleaned?

The passage of the bill wouldn’t mean hotels will no longer clean their rooms daily, representatives said, calling current rules “excessive.”

“We’re not going to stop cleaning rooms,” said Billy Vassiliadis, a lobbyist representing the Nevada Resort Association. “We’re not going to lower the great standards that this industry has always had.”

At the time the Legislature passed SB 4, there was a lot that wasn’t known about how COVID-19 was spread, wrote Ellen Whittemore, vice president, general counsel and secretary of Wynn Resorts, in an April letter. Scientists at the time believed that the virus could be transmitted via surfaces, and now find that risk is low, Whittemore wrote.

Wynn will continue to clean its hotel rooms daily to maintain its Forbes Five Star designation, Whittemore wrote, but keeping the current requirement in place imposes “unprecedented business operational requirements.” She added that the resort industry benefits from having clean environments for both guests and employees, as it relies on the experience of guests for business.

Ted Pappageorge, secretary treasurer of Culinary Union Local 226, the labor union representing hospitality workers, argued that while five-star resorts like the Wynn might continue to clean their rooms daily, other hotels may not.

“Daily room cleaning is essential and needs to be a part of the safety and security of tourists (and) guests in our No. 1 industry in Nevada,” Pappageorge said.

At MGM Resorts’ properties, 43 percent of overnight guests in the last 12 months placed “do not disturb” signs on their doors, declining daily housekeeping, and have an average stay of 2.7 days, said Ayesha Molino, senior vice president of public affairs at MGM Resorts.

What about jobs?

Opponents argue that with no requirement to clean rooms daily, hotels will lay off housekeepers, which would further devastate communities of color still recovering from the pandemic. Pappageorge encouraged the Legislature to either oppose the bill, or change the law to ensure daily room cleaning provisions are intact.

Vassiliadis says jobs won’t be lost. On the contrary, he said, there are many job openings as resorts plan ahead to support an influx of visitors from November’s Formula One race weekend and February’s Super Bowl, as well as a “rolling amount” of events and conventions coming into the city.

The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas, received a $10,000 campaign donation from the Nevada Resort PAC in December 2022. Assemblywoman Elaine Marzola, D-Henderson, chair of the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor, also received a $10,000 campaign donation from the PAC in October 2022, according to campaign finance records. The Culinary Union also endorsed them in the 2022 midterms.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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