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Laid-Off Nevada Employees Win Right To Return; Now What?

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Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

Culinary union leader Geoconda Arguello-Kline speaks at an event last year.

Editor's note: This story originally aired on June 14.

After facing the pandemic and its economic dislocation for more than a year, hospitality workers, medical professionals, laborers, and engineers laid off from the pandemic are celebrating a victory. 

Before the close of the Legislature, Senate Bill 386 passed with party-line votes, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposing. The measure, signed last week by Gov. Steve Sisolak, grants protections to employees laid off due to economic hardships the right to return to their former jobs. The law, which promises workers the "right to return," takes effect July 1. 

"Employers will have the responsibility to call the workers ... for their job openings for their positions or similar positions," said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Local 226, which fought to get the bill passed. Now she and the union, its members, and the resort community are grappling with its fallout.

One person waiting for that day is Daniel Serwenowski, a longtime banquet server for Station Casinos. He told State of Nevada that it's frustrating to see other people going back to work but not him.

"Having no work for 13 months this whole pandemic, I'm ready to go back to work right away," he said. "As soon as they call me I'm there. I'll be there the next day if they need me to."

Serwenowski said he's thankful for the new law and the fairer shake it provides out-of-work Nevadans.

"This is a victory for the workers who have lost their jobs and for the Culinary union that has been there to support us through the whole thing," he said.


Editor's note: Station Casinos and the Nevada Resort Association released the following statements:

Statement from Station Casinos
“Mr.  Serwinowski’s statement, while consistent with Culinary Union talking points, is not accurate.  First of all, the hiring Station Casinos has done includes the rehiring of over 1,500 former employees, most of whom were former full-time team members, not ‘people off the street’ and ‘on call’.  We would have hired even more former full-time team members had they applied for jobs in the last year (which the majority of former Station Casinos employees identified by the Culinary Union as part of its ongoing campaign has not even bothered to do).” 


“Moreover, it is the Culinary Union that included in its ‘right to return’ bill a provision requiring that more senior former part-time/on-call employees get offered full-time jobs before less senior full-time employees like Mr. Serwinowski—and they did so over Station Casinos’ objection.  They also insisted in their bill that these former part-time and on-call employees get unlimited opportunities to accept full-time job offers, even as former full-time employees remain unemployed and while most employers are unable to fill open positions.  To top it off, the Culinary Union’s job-killing right to return bill imposes extraordinarily harsh penalties on employers who can’t follow the bill’s vague directions on hiring priorities.  The bill is an ill-conceived solution in search of a problem and only serves to hurt former full-time employees and stifle hiring.

Statement from the Nevada Resorts Association
“Nevada’s resort industry has been working tirelessly to bring employees back to work since closing in March 2020.  The industry’s emphasis on calling back employees and increasing staffing levels to meet demand does not change because of SB 386. In fact, several of the requirements outlined the bill were already in place, particularly for those with collective bargaining agreements. SB 386 does, however, create more administrative and procedural wo0rk which the industry will fully comply with when the law goes into effect.

“Throughout the pandemic, our members have prioritized the well-being of their employees and their families with wide-ranging and robust support. Whether avoiding layoffs altogether or voluntarily extending health benefits, continuing to pay wages or establishing employee assistance funds, Nevada’s resort industry committed to lessening the impact on its team members for as long as possible despite generating no meaningful revenue during the 78-day closure and operating at extremely reduced business levels since reopening.

“Over the past year, employment levels have followed capacity limits and business volumes. Today, the return to full capacity, the strong weekend demand, and the forthcoming return of entertainment and special events as well as the resumption of large tradeshows and conventions means more employees will be returning to the jobs they love. With customer demand growing and some workers deciding to pursue other interests, there are also plenty of opportunities for new employees to join Nevada’s leading industry and economic engine.”

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Guests

Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer, Culinary Local 226; Daniel Serwenowski, former banquet sever, Red Rock Resort

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