Critics Challenge Culinary Workers Union On How To Rehire Casino Employees

By | September 27, 2021

Station Casinos and some UNLV professors who follow the gaming sector disagree with the Culinary Workers Union on the best approach to rehire workers. About 21,000 employees, representing about a third of the union’s membership, remain out of work following the COVID-19 outbreak.

About 21,000 employees, representing about a third of its membership, remain out of work
Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline, pictured in 2020. Critics have challenged union positions on how to best get workers rehired. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The union sponsored a recent march that was not aimed at any specific employer or casino company but advocated more tourism in Las Vegas to get employment back to pre-pandemic levels. “The Culinary Union wants gaming partners in the industry to be successful, for tourists to return to Las Vegas, and for hospitality workers to be able to return to work at 100%,” according to a recent union statement.

Station Casinos Disputes Union

But Station Casinos, which has been repeatedly at odds with the Culinary Union, over union recognition, disagrees with the union on the rehiring debate.

“Out of one side of its mouth, the Culinary Union brags that 65 percent of workers are back to work because of ‘incredible’ union contract protections,” according to a Station Casinos spokesperson.

In the same breath, it admits that 35 percent of workers are not back at work,” the company added to “Only in a world where incredible means toothless does the Culinary Union’s claim make sense.”

Station Casinos also has singled out the impact of a new Nevada law supported by the union: SB 386. It is known as Right to Return. Its backers argued it was needed to ensure employers offer certain jobs to laid-off workers.

“Since its enactment, SB 386 has proved in practice to be even more of a dumpster fire than we feared,” the Station spokesperson remarked.

“Hiring has slowed, and we have hired far fewer workers than we otherwise would have because of the liability trap created by this misguided and counterproductive law. The Culinary Union should be honest with its members and everyone else and admit that the law does precisely the opposite of what it was intended to do — get hardworking Nevadans back to work.”

Others argue it is unlikely the number of jobs will resume to those numbers found in 2019.

“Despite increased total revenues, the number of persons employed in the Nevada casino industry has declined for over 20 years,” Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, told

He explained that casinos steadily replaced human workers with technology and capital investment. As a result, productivity based on revenue per employee has doubled in the last 20 years, he added.

Without the pandemic, this trend was likely to have continued,” Cabot said. “The notion that employment levels will return to the same levels as in 2019 is unrealistic unless the total resort revenues grow substantially above the 2019 level.”

Cabot further predicts a “large portion” of the remaining unemployed workers will be rehired as hotel occupancy rates continue to improve to pre-pandemic levels.

Labor Market Changed

Stephen Miller, research director at UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, additionally explained that government programs to assist furloughed and laid-off workers with extra unemployment benefits, as well as government loans to small businesses affected labor markets.

“Those businesses looking to hire experienced difficulties in finding workers…. Workers enjoyed the opportunity to look around and search for other jobs with higher pay and/or better working conditions,” Miller told

Casinos also had opportunities “to speed up the adoption of automation … eliminating some jobs in the process,” Miller said.

So, not all of the jobs will come back. Also, not all the workers will come back as well.”

It appears labor market “creakiness is a short-run issue that will resolve itself over time, say the next year,” Miller added. Still, For the second straight month, tourism-dependent Nevada led the nation in unemployment, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

COVID Threat Looms

One lingering economic threat in Southern Nevada relates to the Delta variant or even another variant from COVID-19.

“The virus remains the biggest risk to the economy,” Miller warns.

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