VP Kamala Harris visits Las Vegas to reaffirm Biden administration’s support for unions

VP Kamala Harris visits Las Vegas to reaffirm Biden administration’s support for unions

Vice President Kamala Harris greets members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 after addressing the union on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024. (Courtesy of Culinary Workers Union Local 226)

By Lorraine Longhi

January 4, 2024

Harris called the Culinary Union’s recent contract wins a “historic accomplishment,” saying it had set a precedent for workers across the country.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Las Vegas Wednesday to congratulate the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 on its five-year contracts with the Strip’s largest casino operators, reaffirming the administration’s support for unions across the country.

The Culinary Union, along with Bartenders Union Local 165, represents 60,000 workers in Nevada, including at most of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. In November, the union secured a contract and averted a strike of its nearly 25,500 union members ahead of the inaugural Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix on the Strip.

Harris called it a “historic accomplishment,” saying the union had set a precedent for workers across the country.

“You are setting a new standard for workers everywhere of what they now know…is possible, is reasonable, is right, and is achievable,” she said.

Under the new contracts, workers will see wage increases of 32% over five years–the largest in the union’s history–as well as new safety protections and lower workloads.

Ahead of Harris’ arrival, union members lined up outside in chilly, overcast weather to get into the venue. Roughly 250 people filled the room, and a mariachi band played ahead of her arrival.

The union–which represents cocktail and food workers, bartenders and hotel room cleaners–is the state’s largest Latinx/Black/AAPI/immigrant organization, and a majority of its members are women and Latino.

The vice president’s address to the union Wednesday followed remarks from Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, union leaders and members of Nevada’s congressional delegation – including Rep. Steven Horsford and Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto.

Union Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge applauded the support of the vice president and from President Joe Biden, saying “workers need friends in high places.”

Last month, Biden visited Las Vegas to announce the planned Brightline West high-speed rail system that will connect the valley to Southern California, reiterating his support for the union jobs the project will create. 

Biden’s National Labor Relations Board has also issued rulings that are meant to crack down on union-busting and make it easier for workers to collectively bargain, including a requirement for employers to recognize and bargain with their workers’ union if they commit unfair labor practices during a union election.

“They say this is the most worker-friendly administration in our lifetime. It’s true. It’s the reality,” Pappageorge said. “It just gives people hope and it makes them strong. They know that they’ve got folks in high offices, the highest in this country, that have their backs.”

  • Lorraine Longhi

    Lorraine Longhi is a reporter for The Nevadan and native of the southwest. A graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication, she spent eight years reporting in Arizona, including at The Arizona Republic and The Copper Courier, where she covered education, health care and state politics. She returned to Las Vegas, her hometown, last year as an education reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where she was later promoted to assistant city editor

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