Culinary Union marches for return to jobs on Strip

An overhead view of the Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas Strip Photo credit f11photo/Getty Images

Las Vegas, NV (AP) — Thousands of hotel, casino and restaurant workers marched Friday on the Las Vegas Strip to highlight their call for employers to rehire more people who were furloughed last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Despite the reopening of casinos and hotels, Culinary Union officials said about one-third of its members — or about 21,000 workers — remain out of work some 19 months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nevada.

Many idled employees have now exhausted public unemployment benefits, they said.

“Workers in Las Vegas have built the hospitality industry over the Culinary Union’s 87 years and they should be centered as the economy recovers from the devastating impacts of COVID-19,” the union said in a statement ahead of the evening event scheduled to coincide with shift changes on a busy weekend of Strip sports and entertainment.

“This march is not a protest against any casino company,” union spokeswoman Bethany Khan said Friday. “It is a march, not a strike, rally, action, or a demonstration.”

Workers chanted “full-service restaurants” and “full-service cleaning” as they started marching Friday evening along Las Vegas Boulevard between Flamingo and Harmon, with police restricting sections of The Strip to accommodate the marchers.

The union statement said the goal was to highlight that hospitality workers “are ready to prepare and serve great food in full-service restaurants, make and serve quality drinks and beverages, and ensure guest rooms are cleaned and sanitized daily.”

Casinos statewide have ridden a tourism surge to set monthly winnings records, and tourism officials reported the number of visitors in July approached the millions tallied in pre-pandemic July 2019.

Gov. Steve Sisolak said he plans to meet with labor leaders at the International Union of Elevator Constructors International Convention in Las Vegas on Monday when he is scheduled to speak on the state’s plan to try to use recent bank infrastructure legislation to create good-paying jobs.

“Nevada’s economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic is laser-focused on creating jobs and supporting workers,” Sisolak said in a statement Friday.