Gov. Steve Sisolak joined Culinary Local 226 members at their union hall Tuesday to celebrate Senate Bill 386, which compels hospitality employers to rehire workers laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This was not about a bill … this was about people,” Sisolak told dozens of Culinary members, most wearing their trademark red T-shirts at the union’s first large gathering since March 2020. “This was about people who work for a living — hard-working people who have built this city.”
“They fuel this tourism economy,” he added. “Without you, nobody’s coming to Las Vegas.”
The new law passed on a party-line vote, with no Republican support in either legislative house, after months of intense lobbying from unions including the Culinary. Half of the union’s substantial member base remains out of work some 15 months on from the governor’s casino shutdown, which affected some 350,000 workers, according to the union.
It allows certain workers to return to work beginning July 1 and up until August 2022 if they so choose.
Sisolak told the union members it was difficult to shut down in March of last year. Many workers in the crowded room had been unemployed for over a year, which the governor acknowledged.
“We’ve got lots more to do,” Sisolak said. “As long as there is one of your brothers and sisters that hasn’t gotten their job back, we’re not finished. We’ve got to bring everybody back.”
Mario Sandoval had worked as a server at Binion’s for 36 years before being laid off on March 17, 2020. He has found some occasional part-time work since, but he said in an interview that he looks forward to returning to his chosen career.
“I’m seven years from retiring,” Sandoval said. “I don’t have time for ‘re-educating.’ They only want to hire back the young workers, and without this bill, a large segment of us older workers would have to rely on social services. I don’t want to do that. I want to go back to work.”
Sandoval said he looked forward to serving his longtime customers.
“I’ve been serving three generations of customers at the Horseshoe,” he added. “Some of them — it’s their children and grandchildren coming in now.”
Jorge Padilla, formerly a banquet server at Green Valley Ranch, will soon enter his 16th month of unemployment.
“It’s been a nightmare,” he said in an interview, adding that he has not been contacted in any way by his former employer in the months since he lost his job.
D. Taylor, president of the Culinary’s parent union, UNITE HERE, vowed retribution against Republican legislators who opposed the bill. “We’re nonpartisan, but we’re pro-worker,” Taylor said. “And when somebody doesn’t stand with workers, we’re against you. It’s that simple.”
The union is well known as the state’s most powerful organizing force for Democrats, and it opened the event noting the 2020 defeat of President Donald Trump.
Taylor brought Sandoval, the former Binion’s server, up to the front of the room with him as an example of the new law’s importance.
“It was a very simple proposition: We shouldn’t get penalized twice,” Taylor said of the bill. “We all had the tragedy of the pandemic, and we want to have the right to go back to our job. We might not go back, but we want to have that basic right. Pretty simple proposition.”