Now is a great time for gaming and culinary union leaders to have a show of solidarity By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports May 20, 2020 at 9:00 pm Call me naive, just about everyone does. Say I’m daydreaming if it suits you. But with major casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere slowly returning to life amid the grave challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, now would be an ideal time for industry leaders and Culinary Union officials to stand together in a genuine show of solidarity for a common goal. You know, their mutual survival. To date, a number of casino corporations have received high marks for their willingness to show patience and embrace a new reality in which the concept of social distancing in a business that’s generally pretty crowded is taken seriously. In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak’s effort to put health and safety ahead of the economy has been a winning hand so far. And now that the state has entered into a gradual phasing in of businesses with the application of set restrictions, there’s some light in the darkness caused by the pandemic and the ravages of COVID-19. Fortunately, the lines of communication now appear to be wide open. A cooperative plan announced Tuesday by MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, Boyd Gaming, union officials and representatives on University Medical Center, calls for testing of thousands of gaming and tourism industry workers in anticipation of the upcoming reopening, Associated Press reports. That show of unity sends an important message at just the right time. Message from the closed Aria on the Las Vegas Strip/Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports The crisis and slow recovery created strained relationships between UNITE-HERE and some of the casino corporations. With 60,000 workers represented by Culinary Local 226 in Southern Nevada alone, there are a lot of rank-and-file dues-paying workers on the sidelines. So it was probably predictable that Culinary would stage a rally on the Strip to attract attention to its plight. And UNITE-HERE President D. Taylor and other union officials have more than once discussed their relationship and concerns about the companies to which they provide service workers. Call out the union for going over the top in some of its criticism of the industry if you like. Remind all concerned that gaming regulators are analyzing reopening plans and best practices are being used. Fair enough. But I think Taylor, Culinary 226’s Gioconda Arguello-Kline, and their colleagues in New Jersey, Louisiana, and elsewhere made a good argument for inclusion in each step of the reopening strategy as some states unlock the doors and Nevada prepares for a Memorial Day weekend reopening. In early May, Taylor was more than willing to remind reporters that gaming is a privileged license and that he believed “some bad actors” weren’t going to follow public health guidelines.” Although he wasn’t long on reveal evidence, he made a good point by noting that a single coronavirus “hot spot” outbreak would send a devastating message at precisely the wrong time. “Because if a corona hot spot hits one casino in a town, it’s not reported, oh, it’s just that casino,” he told reporters. “It’s the whole town, which hurts all the workers, which hurts the industry, and frankly which hurts the states that rely on the taxes.” That’s true. And Taylor knows what’s at stake. The economic fallout since March on union workers has been crushing with the closure of casinos, hotels, sports arenas, and industrial cafeterias. But that job loss doesn’t outweigh the ongoing safety concerns everyone should share. “We want to go back to work, but we want to go back to work in a safe environment, where we’re not viewed as rats in a lab like some politicians are trying to put us in,” he said in a jab at Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who told an interviewer she “volunteered” to use city residents as a “control group” in an effort to speed a reopening. To that end, Culinary announced its own public health guidelines that essentially reflect Center for Disease Control standards in use at most companies. The focus is on testing, the availability of personal protective equipment, social distancing, and deep cleaning. Proper training and enough time to accomplish the tasks at hand are also essential, he said. The union’s concerns are valid. The health guidelines are reasonable and presumably reflect the high standards that will be necessary for the industry as it moves forward. But what wasn’t necessary was the tension that has existed between some of the corporations and the union that provides them with trained workers. Maybe it’s corny to say it, but there is no better time than now for management and labor to show a united front as the casino industry enters the most important moment in its modern era. John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.