UPDATE (JUNE 29): The Culinary Union Local 226 on Monday filed a lawsuit on behalf of employees against hotel casinos that they say have not taken sufficient precautions to keep employees safe.
The legal complaint claims that the defendants -- The Signature at MGM Grand, Sadelle's Cafe at Bellagio and Guy Fieri Las Vegas at Harrah's -- have failed to shut down food-and-beverage venues and immediately inform employees after learning of employees' positive tests, have provided false information about how the virus spreads, and have adopted unreasonable rules for addressing spread.
The lawsuit also says that defendants have "stubbornly refused" to require their guests to wear face coverings, despite evidence that the virus spreads via airborne droplets. The union is suing the companies for injunctive relief under the Labor-Management Relations Act regarding hazardous working conditions.
“The Culinary Union will continue to collect worker statements and evidence regarding unsafe working conditions throughout the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas, and we will support the courageous workers who have come forward to share their experiences," said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union.
The lawsuit has been filed less than one week after a Caesars employee died after testing positive for the virus.
Since March 1, 2020, 19 Culinary Union members or their dependents have died from COVID-19.
SEVERAL ALLEGATIONS IN THE LAWSUIT
- Workers have fear and anxiety heightened by The Signature at MGM’s failure to provide employees with prompt information about co-workers who test positive, and by the companies’ failure to follow reasonable contact-tracing and quarantine procedures.
- Even though Harrah’s was aware that the food runner had tested positive for COVID-19, Harrah’s did not immediately announce this fact to all Guy Fieri workers so that they could take precautions. When Guy Fieri workers reported their concern about having worked with a COVID-19-positive co-worker, a security manager tried to pressure them to continue working, saying that they “looked alright to work” to him.
- A food runner at Sadelle’s Cafe informed Bellagio that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Even after two positive COVID-19 cases, the company did not immediately close down Sadelle’s Cafe or work areas, where the employees who had tested positive had worked less than seven days earlier. The company also did not attempt to contact trace, nor did it advise an employee to self-quarantine after the employee had been in close contact with an employee who tested positive.
READ THE FULL LAWSUIT
RESPONSE FROM MGM RESORTS
Nothing is more important to us than the safety of everyone inside of our properties. We have spent months working with health experts to create a comprehensive health and safety plan. We have offered free testing to all employees before they report to work and require it if they exhibit symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive and we have made available tests in other circumstances that do not dictate that a test is required. We have worked to train our mangers in our incident response protocols and we work very closely with the health department officials in their efforts to contact trace. The nation is in the midst of a public health crisis and we are relying on all of our employees to follow CDC guidance both at work and at home.
ORIGINAL STORY (JUNE 27): LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- The Culinary Union Local 226 will file a lawsuit Monday on behalf of Strip employees to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19, the union announced Saturday morning.
In a release, the union said it would hold a press conference at 11 a.m. June 29 virtually.
"The Culinary Union is suing these companies for injunctive relief under the Labor-Management Relations Act based on the hazardous working conditions that workers face," the statement said. "The lawsuit alleges casino hotels have not protected workers, their families, and their community from the spread of COVID-19, and that the current rules and procedures in place for responding to workers contracting COVID-19 have been wholly and dangerously inadequate."
According to union representatives, the lawsuit outlines Las Vegas Strip properties' "failure to properly warn workers, disinfect, and quarantine when a worker or their co-worker tests positive for COVID-19."
- "Requiring daily cleaning of guest rooms
- Mandatory testing of all employees for COVID-19 before returning to work and regular testing thereafter
- Providing adequate COVID-19 PPE for employees
- Enforcing social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures
- 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.
- 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."
Culinary Union Local 226 represents some 60,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno.
Union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline, union members named in the complaint and the daughter of a Culinary Union member who has passed away from COVID-19 will all be in attendance for the virtual press conference.
On Friday, Irma Fernandez spoke to FOX5 about her father's death. He was employed by Caesars Entertainment.
FOX5 will stream the press conference live on Facebook.