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Lawmakers, Culinary Union debate daily cleaning at Nevada resorts

Las Vegas Strip
Posted at 12:44 PM, Apr 12, 2023

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Daily room cleaning requirements at Nevada hotels, resorts, and casinos could soon be eliminated.

That's if Senate Bill 441 passes.

On Tuesday, lawmakers heard testimony both for and against the measure.

Senator Marilyn Dondero Loop said the proposed bill would repeal Senate Bill 4, which outlined cleaning standards due to the pandemic.

"Looking back, we did everything we could to protect ourselves and our visitors while knowing little about the virus, its impacts to our health, and what the consequences would be," Loop said. "This isn't a repeal of something we got wrong. It's quite the opposite. The law worked then but it doesn't work now and we should unburden our hotel operators. I believe our hotel operators know their customers best and they have always made safety a top priority. Why keep a law on the book that has no justification for it?"

Senator Rochelle Nguyen echoed those sentiments adding that health statistics used to track and inform COVID-19 policies no longer exist.

"We have already ended [the COVID-19 emergency declaration]. Positivity rates over 5% in any 14-day period and a 90-day period, this is data the state doesn't even post. It doesn't publish this information because it is not an accurate reflection of our testing numbers," Nguyen said. "We need to follow the science. We vet bills based on science and amend our bills when they no longer follow that evidence-based system."

Several companies came forward in support of the bill including the Nevada Resort Association, MGM Resorts, the Venetian, and the Las Vegas Chamber.

"What we're asking for, as an industry, is customer choice, which we had before COVID-19," said Billy Vassiliadis, who was representing the Nevada Resort Association. "We informed customers they could choose not to have their rooms cleaned every day and somewhere between 40%-50% chose not to. Why? It's Vegas. I'm out at night. I'm sleeping during the day. As much as I adore my housekeeper, I don't want housekeeping when I just went to bed."

Ayesha Molino, the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs for MGM Resorts and vice chair for the Nevada Resort Association, said staffing issues are making everyday room cleanings very challenging.

"We still have labor challenges we're trying to meet. We're continuing to focus on hiring and retaining employees, especially in operations roles," Molino said. "We currently have more than 200 open guest room attendant positions and are experiencing a turnover rate of about 14%."

However, the Culinary Union said they don't agree.

"Since the pandemic, resort hotels in Nevada have cut short-term costs to achieve long-term downsizing of labor and increased their profits, which is very unfortunate because the customers are still paying for first-class rooms and not getting first-class service," said Ted Pappageorge, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Culinary Union. "You would think will all these profits, a lot more jobs for Nevadans would be created but in fact, the gaming industry has only provided as many jobs as it did in the mid-1990s."

The Culinary Union said by eliminating daily room cleaning, it "unnecessarily downgrades and degrades the kind of resort experience guests would expect."

However, Senator Jeff Stone disagreed with those statements.

"If the customers were so disenfranchised by not having their rooms cleaned on a daily basis, why are we seeing record numbers of visitors coming to Nevada these days, if they're so unhappy," Stone questioned.

The AFL-CIO also testified in opposition to Senate Bill 441.

"Our hospitality workers propped up Nevada's number one industry during the pandemic and in return, this bill would leave them in fear of losing their jobs after putting their own health on the line for so long," said Susie Martinez, the organizations Secretary-Treasurer. "Hotel executives are raking in record profits now because workers allowed their businesses to survive. There is no reason why they shouldn't be able to retain and pay employees what they deserve."

Some of the other groups against the bill include the Nevada State American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, Nevada State Pipe Trades, and Make The Road Nevada.

As of Wednesday morning, no future hearings have been scheduled.