Secretary-treasurer, Culinary Workers Union, Local 226
On work, dignity and respect
What are the challenges ahead, not just for Culinary workers in particular, but service workers in general?
You know, we all love our iPhones. But in reality, now, when you go to the airport, you don’t need to see anybody to check in. You have your iPhone to check in, you get your boarding pass and you go to the plane. We know that technology will be a challenge for workers in the casinos, and we have to figure out how we can really protect jobs.
Is it a question of resisting that technology or finding a way to coexist with it?
We have to figure out how we prepare the workforce for that change. The Culinary’s done a lot to bring a great standard of living to Las Vegas, and it’s like a big community, too. They live here, they buy houses here, and their kids go to schools here. We use the doctors here and everything else — it’s a big package. The wider community benefits because of these jobs. We have to figure out how the jobs stay here.
People sometimes forget that Culinary workers on the Strip are part of a whole ecosystem that’s plugged into the middle class of the entire city.
If you have good wages, people spend their money. If you have a good job, and your job is secure, you say, “I’m gonna buy a house, I have decent wages, I can take care of my family, I have health care to protect my family, I will retire with dignity.” It’s established families in the community. The Culinary Union in Las Vegas is a stable family that reflects an entire community.
Is the idea of taking pride in your work, no matter how simple, passé? Or the idea of basic respect for anyone doing a job? It seems like the dominant success narrative these days focuses on the singular visionaries and entrepreneurs in tech.
I think people need to be reminded that people deserve respect, not because of the job you do, but because every human being deserves respect. It doesn’t matter what job you perform; it’s a job you have with dignity, because you work so hard to bring money home. The person who delivers mail to my home — I respect that person. I know the person works so hard, in the cold weather, in the hot weather, so I can have my mail. Respect people’s jobs. If you’re a secretary, or you work making bread, or you work as a nurse, or you work serving drinks, the thing is respect.
I was a rank-and file-worker. I understand how much they work every single day. I was a guest-room attendant, seven years in the industry. When I see a guest-room attendant, I know exactly what she’s going through every single day.
Does that background change the way you see casinos?
Anybody who’s never worked in the casino and you go in there and you say, “Oh my god, it’s so beautiful. It’s so clean, it’s so nice, the food is so great.” But they didn’t understand the effort that was put forth by a human being to make everything look so beautiful and so great and so welcoming and have such a beautiful room. I am very connected with that because I came from the rank and file.