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John L Smith: Culinary Union Demands Further Protection In New Lawsuit

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AP Photo/John Locher, File

In this April 28, 2020, file photo, the sun sets behind casinos and hotels along the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas.

Culinary Union Local 226 and its parent organization, UNITE-HERE, have questioned whether elected officials and casino industry leaders are doing enough to protect the thousands of workers the union represents in the midst of the pandemic. 

Now the union - which represents some 60,000 workers - has filed a lawsuit that alleges its concerns have not been realized. 

Some would argue that the casino industry has done enough - with plexiglass and personal protective equipment evident on casino floors.

State of Nevada contributor John L Smith has more on this story.   

“I think number one [purpose of the lawsuit is] to call attention to what they’re saying is not best practices being followed by some parts of the casino industry, not all of it, but some restaurants have had issues,” Smith said.

Casino and restaurant workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and an employee at Caesars Palace has died. 

“As we know from the statistics, when Las Vegas reopened, just some days later the number of COVID positive cases began to really climb and so that’s clearly a concern by the union’s top brass,” Smith said.

Casinos have put in barriers, asked people to wear masks and instituted new cleaning procedures, but clearly, the union doesn't believe that is enough, especially in areas where workers must interact with guests.

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Something else that has changed since Nevada started to reopen is that people are mandated to wear masks in public. 

Smith said Gov. Steve Sisolak should have made the move sooner, although he admits he's doing some "armchair quarterbacking" when he says that.

“It’s obvious now, in the wake of the positive tests in recent days, that mandating mask-wearing might have been a much better idea at the outset; however, in fairness, the governor was on the air a lot. He was recommending mask-wearing on a very regular basis.”

But people didn't comply with those recommendations and perhaps viewed the reopening as something it wasn't.

“But I think when Vegas reopened and when Nevada reopened, I think the rules really kind of went out the window,” Smith said.

Now, wearing a mask as somehow become a political statement for or against President Donald Trump, Smith said. 

In addition, there are some people who don't believe wearing a mask does anything. 

Smith says this is a strange time for politics in America and in Nevada.

“This is just one of those things that unfortunately can have really tragic results,” he said.

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John L Smith, KNPR Contributor 

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