April 24, 2020 / 10:18 PM / a month ago

Unions denounce Las Vegas mayor's call to re-open casinos

(Reuters) - The powerful United Auto Workers union on Friday criticized Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s call to re-open casinos despite the continued risk of coronavirus, the latest labor organization to weigh in on her remarks.

FILE PHOTO: Empty roads leading into and out of the Las Vegas strip are seen as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Las Vegas, Nevada U.S., April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

UAW president Rory Gamble, whose union represents casino workers in Las Vegas along with automobile workers across the United States, called on Nevada politicians to denounce Goodman at a time when states are looking at how to re-open businesses in ways that keep workers safe.

“UAW Casino employees, their families and the community are not test subjects for her irresponsible theories on public health and the COVID-19 virus,” Gamble said in a statement.

Goodman, whose jurisdiction does not include the famed Las Vegas Strip, which is outside the city limits, has called closing the area’s resorts and casinos “total insanity.”

Her city faces a possible budget deficit of $150 million due to lost revenue from coronavirus-related closures and the associated drop in tourism and hospitality. The state of Nevada imposed shutdowns in March aimed at stopping the spread of the highly infectious virus.

Earlier this week, Goodman appeared on several television news programs calling for an immediate re-opening of casinos.

“We’re ready to get back in business,” she said on MSNBC.

Business owners should keep their places clean, she said.

“Let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if in fact there becomes evidence that they have disease,” Goodman said.

Her remarks prompted strong pushback from unions representing workers in the city’s hospitality industry and healthcare sector. Unions are powerful politically in Nevada, where a greater percentage of workers are represented by labor organizations than many other parts of the United States.

“To suggest that we should endanger more lives by treating Las Vegas like a guinea pig in some wild experiment betrays a profound level of ignorance of the current situation,” said Grace Vergara-Mactal, executive director of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, which represents health care workers.

The Culinary Workers union Local 226, which represents 60,000 workers in casinos, restaurants and bars, called Goodman’s comments “outrageous.”

Nearly a dozen members have already died of the virus, said union secretary-treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline.

“We are not expendable,” Arguello-Kline said in a statement.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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