Vegas Casino Unions Drop MGM from COVID-10 Safety Suit

July 22, 2020

Unions representing 65,000 Las Vegas-area casino workers have dropped two MGM Resorts International properties from a lawsuit accusing companies of skimping on protective measures and putting employees at risk of illness and death during the coronavirus pandemic.

Culinary Union executive Geoconda Arguello-Kline called it a victory to drop legal proceedings against the owner of the Bellagio resort and the Signature Condominiums towers and begin “expedited arbitration” involving the company and a board representing culinary and bartenders union members.

“Workers who make this city run deserve to be protected and they are at risk,” Arguello-Kline said in a statement reporting that 22 Culinary Union members or dependent family members have died from COVID-19 since March 1.

MGM Resorts on Tuesday called the court filing “frivolous” and noted the union action came just ahead of a court-imposed deadline and after the company filed a legal challenge.

“We hope that the Culinary Union will work collaboratively with us in the future when it comes to health and safety issues,” the casino owner said.

The unions’ Local Joint Executive Board did not drop its claims against Caesars Entertainment, operator of Harrah’s Las Vegas, based on accounts from an employee at an eatery there.

The unions allege Caesars only “encouraged” instead of required hotel guests and casino gamblers to use masks and facial coverings to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory illness.

Caesars Entertainment officials did not immediately respond Tuesday to messages.

The lawsuit filed June 20 sought a court order under federal collective bargaining law to force the companies to tighten safety measures.

Four days later, on June 24, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a mandatory face covering policy for anyone in “any generally publicly accessible space” including casinos and other businesses.

The unions, representing hotel housekeepers, cooks, bartenders, vehicle valets and others, want the state Legislature to pass a law requiring coronavirus protection measures.

They call for enhanced cleaning procedures and safety training; enforcement of social distance requirements; free virus testing for employees called back to work or exposed to someone with COVID-19; temperature checks to detect fever symptoms of illness; and detailed plans for when a worker contracts the virus.

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