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Nevada's Culinary Union calling on state leaders, casinos to better protect workers

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Posted at 5:46 PM, Jul 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-17 20:58:40-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Culinary Union is wanting Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, the Nevada Legislature, and casino companies to do more to protect its workers.

Twenty-two culinary and bartenders union members, their spouses, or dependents have died from COVID-19, according to Nevada's Culinary Union.

And the union says 352 members, their spouses, or dependents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 through July 15.

“Behind every worker in this state there is a family,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “Gov. Sisolak, the Nevada Legislature, and casino companies must do everything they can to ensure workers and their families are protected from the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

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The Culinary Union says it is demanding safety for all hospitality and gaming workers in Nevada and is tracking what casino employers are doing to prevent COVID-19 in the following areas:

-Requiring daily cleaning of guest rooms.
-Mandatory testing of all employees for COVID-19 before returning to work and regular testing thereafter.
-Providing adequate COVID-19 PPE for employees.
-Enforcing social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures.
-Requiring guests to wear face masks in all public areas.
-Posting a COVID-19 safety plan on public-facing website.

“My mom has been in the hospital for almost a week and is barely able to breathe on her own. She was exposed to someone who had COVID-19 at work,” said Sara Kalaoram, the daughter of Stella Kalaoram, a Culinary Union member and guest room attendant at The Cosmopolitan. “Now, my dad, my younger teenage brother, and I are all positive for COVID-19 and we are really worried.

Also, the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations for members, their spouses, or dependents has increased 860% (5 on June 4 to 43 on July 16) since casinos reopened on June 4, according to the Culinary Union.

“I work in the front outside of the casino where customers are frequently not wearing a face mask,” said Leain Vashon, a bell captain at Caesars Entertainment’s Paris Las Vegas. “I’m worried about getting COVID-19 and then transmitting it to my family. I would feel safer if my casino company required all workers to be tested regularly for the virus.”

The Culinary Union continues to say Nevada has seen a concerning rise of positive tests and hospitalizations recently and workers fear that they will contract the virus and bring it home to their families or possibly die from it.

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All hotel and casino workers – union and non-union - throughout the state are living with this same fear each day they go to work, according to the union.

Nevada's Culinary Union says it has sent a letter to Gov. Sisolak and Nevada Legislators requesting the Adolfo Fernandez Bill, addressing public health, be placed on the agenda. Fernandez passed away after contracting COVID-19 and was employed as a utility worker on the Las Vegas Strip.

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Gov. Sisolak has not immediately responded to 13 Action News request for comment on the Culinary Union's demands.