“One job should be enough.”
That was the slogan of 53,000 Las Vegas hospitality workers as they voted by an overwhelming 95% majority to strike if their unions fail to reach contract deals with hotel owners.
The upsurge in strike support has been driven by a huge rise in burnout among workers — at the same time as hotel profits are soaring. Labor unions are stepping in to do what they can to protect their members.
In February 2023, the Las Vegas Strip announced revenues of $8.29 billion in 2022, an increase of 17% from the previous year. Across Nevada as a whole, revenues hit $14.8 billion, up 11% from 2021. Those numbers are incredible when you consider the headwinds that remain.
Workers, however, are still feeling the heat from the increased workload that was triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. With total visitors to Las Vegas rising 21% last year to 38.8 million, the cost of living increasing, and high inflation taking its toll, hospitality workers are bearing the brunt of the uptick.
Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union, said, “As companies reduce labor, there are less workers who have even more responsibilities and are doing more work instead of spending quality time with their families, and that has to change. Workers have built this industry and made it successful and that’s why we are demanding that workers share in that prosperity.”
Evangelina Alaniz, a guest room attendant at the Bellagio Hotel and a member of the Culinary Union for 18 years, has been struggling. “My job got so much harder since the pandemic and I’m in constant pain at work,” she says. “When I get home I feel guilty that I don’t have energy to spend time with my son, help him with his homework, or even cook dinner some nights.… Often, I have to go to bed so I have enough strength to go to work the next day and serve the guests.”
Similarly, Jackson, a worker who is tasked with cleaning 13 rooms a day after checkout — without getting a lunch break — said, “Your back hurts, your legs hurt, you are always sore, you don’t feel like doing anything.”
Although the unions are rightly pushing for reduced workloads, better pay and improved safety protections, it’s clear that the Labor movement must also prepare for the longer term. That means providing better benefits for SEIU members that give them the support they need to manage and overcome mental and physical health issues.
For workers struggling with chronic disease and overwork, regular access to reliable, high-quality and affordable healthcare can make a real difference to their lives.
As a third-party administrator that improves healthcare access for union members, we’ve been a trusted friend and partner of Labor for more than 30 years.
We celebrate the strength and spirit of Labor workers and provide customizable services that take care of people: whether through a self-funded plan, retirement services, contribution accounting or pension provisions. With better health benefits, provided through union power, a healthier future is possible.
So what does the future hold for Vegas hospitality workers? In 2018, when 25,000 members voted to authorize a strike, contracts were settled soon after the vote.
This time around progress appears to be slow — making it all the more important that unions do what they can now to provide members with the care they need.