Why a fight over changes made during the covid pandemic could put your summer Las Vegas Strip vacation in danger.
During the covid pandemic, Nevada passed laws setting standards for how hotels had to maintain both their guest rooms and public areas. The bill, SB4, called for daily room cleaning. Now, a new bill before the state legislature would end that practice.
The mechanics of all this are a little odd as Las Vegas Strip properties — at least the major ones owned by players like Caesars Entertainment (CZR) – Get Free Report and MGM Resorts International (MGM) – Get Free Report — all provided daily room cleaning before the pandemic. Once covid hit, however, at least at some properties those companies, as well as other Las Vegas operators, made room cleaning something only done by request in order to not have a stranger enter a guest’s room (potentially spreading covid).
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Still, SB4 did require cleaning of hotel rooms and a new bill before the legislature, SB441 would repeal that requirement. That sets the stage for a battle between the state’s hotel operators and Culinary Local 226, the union representing the workers who actually provide that cleaning across the Strip and Nevada.
“Culinary union representatives said the issue is closely tied to its contract negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement with Strip properties — most of which expire June 1,” The Las Vegas Review-Journal.
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Resort executives want the mandatory daily cleaning removed even if they don’t actually intend to clean rooms less.
“SB441 puts health and safety regulations back under state agencies instead of prescribed in statue, which allows for flexibility when situations change, provides choice for guests and removes one of the last remaining COVID-era mandates in the country,” Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine told state lawmakers during a hearing on the bill, the Nevada Independent reported.
It’s hard to imagine Caesars and MGM, not to mention the higher-end Wynn Resorts (WYNN) – Get Free Report not offering daily cleaning for customers who want it. Those resort operators could, however, if the law changes, incentivize customers to not ask for daily cleaning. They could also make it something people have to request and either of those moves would cut labor costs.
That’s something that the union very much does not want to see happen.
“Protecting daily room cleaning means protecting workers, protecting Las Vegas’ image and protecting hotel customers,” Culinary Local 226 Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said during the meeting.
He made it clear the that “he expects to codify daily hotel room cleaning during negotiations for new labor agreements between the union and dozens of Strip and downtown resorts covering some 60,000 non-gaming employees,” the Independent reported.
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While Pappageorge did not make any direct threats, his implications were clear. The union wants to protect daily cleaning of hotel rooms both legislatively and via its negations with the the hotel operators.
“What we need is both,” Pappageorge said, according to the Review-Journal. “We need (regulations) in the Legislature to push companies on this issue. Then we also have a big fight with these companies on this issue to push harder for daily room cleaning.”
Nevada Resorts Association President Virginia Valentine pushed for SB 441 to pass, which it almost certainly will, while noting that the union does not actually need daily room cleaning to be a law.
“You don’t have to have something in state law to bargain for it,” she said.
About 40% of MGM guests decline daily cleaning, according to MGM Senior Vice President Ayesha Molino. That’s at least partially due to the unique hours people often keep when they’re visiting Las Vegas.
For the union, it’s a question of preserving jobs and balancing daily room cleaning for current guests with the deeper cleaning needed when rooms turn over. And, as it seems like the legislature will likely pass 441, the question becomes whether the union will strike over this issue. So far, that’s not something Pappageorge or other union officials have made their thoughts clear on.
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This story was originally published April 29, 2023, 7:00 AM.
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