UNLV Exhibit Explores Culinary Union Influence On Las Vegas

A next exhibit opening Dec. 4 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas will explore how the city and the Strip was shaped by the state’s largest union.

UNLV’s public history program is set to unveil the display about the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 in the Lied Library. It’s scheduled to run through April 1.

Hannah Robinson, a UNLV student and the exhibit’s curator, said to fully understand Las Vegas history, it’s wise to look at the ways union activism influenced and was influenced by the exponential growth of the tourism industry.

Sample artifacts include a t-shirt designed for members who participated in the 1984 strike against 32 casinos that reads, “We struck, we stuck, scabs suck.” The shirt is displayed next to photographs of the event that testify to union solidarity amid discord.

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Banners, buttons, picket signs and oral history interviews help tell the story of the 55,000-member group that was founded in 1935. Today, the Culinary Union represents housekeepers, servers, cooks and other casino workers.

UNLV graduate students and the union collaborated to produce the exhibit, Robinson said. The exhibit “Line in the Sand: The People, Power and Progress of the Culinary Union” is a collaboration with the Culinary Workers Union, the Bartenders Union, UNLV University Libraries, the UNLV College of Liberal Arts, the Nevada State Museum, and the Las Vegas News Bureau.


Hannah Robinson, UNLV student and curator

Deirdre Clemente, associate director of UNLV's public history program

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