Culinary Union releases staggering COVID-19 numbers, calls on Sisolak, lawmakers, and casinos to protect workers

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Culinary Union is calling on Governor Steve Sisolak, the Nevada Legislature, and casino companies to do more to protect workers. According to the organization, since March 1, a total of 22 Culinary and Bartenders Union members and their spouses or dependents have died from COVID-19. Through July 15, a total of 352 have been hospitalized due to the coronavirus.

“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.”

The number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations for Culinary and Bartenders Union members and their spouses or dependents has increased over 800% since Governor Sisolak allowed Nevada casinos to reopen on June 4, 2020, the union said.

“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 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.”

The Culinary Union says it’s 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 CulinaryClean.org

“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.”

What the union demands of casinos:

  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.

Representatives are now proposing a state bill be placed on the agenda for the 2020 Special Legislative Session to ensure more safety measures are taken.

“We are asking to have chase cleaning. We are asking for testing. We are checking to check the temperature. We are asking the hotels what plans they have to take care of COVID-19,” said Argüello-Kline. “I am talking with people who have their mother in the hospital and … it’s tough. You can’t even go see your mom because you are sick, too.”

The proposed bill is called the “Adolfo Fernandez Bill,” named in honor of a Strip hotel worker who died of COVID-19 complications.

8 News Now has reached out to the Governor’s office for a response or statement to this. We have not yet heard back.

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