Culinary on Wynn, Kihuen and the contract push for worker safety

Culinary on Wynn, Kihuen and the contract push for worker safety (KSNV)

Here's one of the things on the table, as the city's biggest union starts bargaining with our biggest industry:

“Any person who is going to be inside rooms, we would like to have a device where they can immediately contact and somebody help them,” says Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline. It’s no small issue for a union that’s 55% female and that represents 14,000 guest room attendants. “The workers – they can wear on their bodies. It’s especially for the people going to the room, like the guest room attendant, the minibar, the room service,” Arguello-Kline says.

This culinary push for a personal panic button's been in the news for just over a week. As it starts contract talks with 44 properties on the strip and downtown, covering a total of 57 thousand workers.

Here's what you are hearing for the first time: It's reaction to the sexual misconduct charges against Steve Wynn.

“The first thing I was, you know, shock,” says Arguello-Kline, adding, “second thing, I believe every woman who comes and talks about it. We have to respect that, but at the same time, he's entitled to have an investigation, too.”

Steve Wynn is getting an investigation, from authorities in Macau to Massachusetts, to Nevada to the Wynn's Board of Directors.

Wynn's denied the charges but has become Las Vegas most public face caught up in the "#MeToo" moment.

At the Rape Crisis Center, it's head says the moment is sending the entire gaming industry a message:

“There is no safe place for people who do this, and if that's your MO, it's not going to be tolerated anymore,” Dreitzer told me. As for personal panic buttons, Dreitzer supports any push that helps workers be safer. “It’s an opportunity to acknowledge that this is a safety concern that has been around for a very long time for some of our most vulnerable workers in our community,” she says.

As America has watched, the rules are changing for the mostly male and powerful elite who run everything from movies to media, politics to gaming. Arguello-Kline says the culinary offers its union workers protection from harassment, including a hotline (702-385-2131) and other tools to stay safe. When asked how widespread she believes harassment is at local resorts,” Arguello-Kline says the union has not been flooded with complaints, but, “cases happen.”

“We do not want any woman to go through that. We have daughters and nobody wants anybody in their family to go through that situation,” she says.

Speaking of politics, one politician caught up in me too moment is Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nevada, who won his 4th congressional district with help from the culinary in 2016. At the end of December, he was hit with accusations of sexual misconduct, which he has denied. He refused to resign but instead has said he will not run for reelection.

“I was, like, you know, can’t believe this happened but at the same time, I respect the women who talk about it because people go through a lot,” Arguello-kline told me. “But at the same time, I believe that he’s entitled to an investigation, too.”

Reached for comment, both MGM resorts and caesars entertainment say they’re working with the culinary to keep workers safe.

“We are working with our union partners to develop pilot programs that explore how technology can enhance employee safety,” says Caesars’ Jennifer Forkish, Vice President of Corporate Communications.

Ditto, from MGM Resorts.

“We are working in conjunction with the culinary union to equip the housekeeping staff at all our Las Vegas resorts with panic buttons,” says the company’s Mary Hynes.

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