Here’s hoping ‘Right to Return’ job legislation isn’t needed By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports June 1, 2021 at 8:11 pm You can’t blame the Culinary Union for crowing about the Nevada Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 386, which gives a window of “Right to Return” job protection for more than 350,000 hospitality workers in Clark and Washoe counties. After focusing on work-site protection, defending against job losses was a paramount issue for the union throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. At one point, 98 percent of Culinary’s 60,000 members were out of work. Approximately 50 percent have been hired back, according to the labor organization. That membership paid a substantial price during the pandemic. Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 to date have reported 131 member deaths and nearly 1,300 virus-related hospitalizations since March 1, 2020. “Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the Culinary Union has been fighting every day to protect hospitality workers and their families,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union. It’s easy to argue that such a bill shouldn’t have been needed, but union officials remind skeptics that previous large-scale layoffs sometimes morphed into forced retirement parties for older workers. Rusty McAllister, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Nevada AFL-CIO, put it less delicately in a statement. “With Senate Bill 386, we give these Nevadans who lost their jobs due to no fault of their own a chance to return to normalcy and the much-needed stability that they’ve lacked for more than a year,” he said. “It would be an injustice to kick long-term frontline employees, who have contributed to Nevada’s success for decades, to the curb once the pandemic is over. A Right to Return law would prevent employers from using a global pandemic to get rid of older workers in a shameful attempt to force them into early retirement.” The bill has its nuances. One amendment backed by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak exempts small businesses, which were hit hard during the pandemic, but will benefit from $101 million in assistance. This was a substantial victory for organized labor at the legislature, which had Democratic Party majorities in the Assembly and Senate. Last fall, California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed similar legislation with tough language about the hardship it would place on employers still staggered by economic losses due to the pandemic shutdown. He also considered the bill overbroad. “The hospitality industry and its employees have been hit hard by the economic impacts of the pandemic,” Newsom stated. “I believe the requirements of this bill place too onerous a burden on employers navigating these tough challenges and I would encourage the legislature to consider other approaches to ensure workers are not left behind.” In April, Newsom embraced a retooled version of the legislation and signed a bill that requires large employers of hospitality workers — hotels, convention centers, and the like — to rehire workers sidelined during the pandemic. To little surprise, he was cheered by organized labor in the state. Sisolak, meanwhile, has a lot to cheer about as the 2021 session ends. Give or take a “Blockchains City” bill, he signed more than 200 pieces of legislation with a substantial emphasis on helping to ease the state’s COVID-crisis recovery. Sayeth Sisolak: “From the start, we knew this legislative session would look very different than any other before in our state’s history, but I am so proud that we were able to create significant progress on our road to recovery for all those who call Nevada home. Only 120 days ago, we were still reeling from the COVID-19 winter surge and navigating our path forward out of this crisis. What began in uncertain times will conclude with a feeling of hope and confidence in our comeback. “Over the past four months, we came together to provide the largest small business assistance funding in state history, approve precedent-setting education funding, and prioritize job creation through measures such as the Infrastructure Bank and legislation that will accelerate Nevada’s New Energy Economy. Over that same time period, Nevada has administered millions of life-saving vaccines into arms and is officially 100 percent reopened statewide as of today. Through the good times and the hard times, serving as Nevada’s governor continues to be the honor of my lifetime. Let’s get to work.” In Nevada, getting back to work may bring the greatest relief of all.