ICYMI: Vice President Harris Celebrates Strength of Nevada Unions, Emphasizes Historic Support for Labor Movement

Yesterday, Vice President Kamala Harris and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su visited Las Vegas to congratulate Culinary Union Local 226 members on historic contracts. While Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans have tried to dismantle workers’ rights at every opportunity, the vice president’s trip only emphasized the Biden-Harris administration’s solidarity with the labor movement and record as the most pro-union White House in America’s history.

See coverage of VP Harris’ visit below:

The Nevada Independent: In Vegas, Kamala Harris visit to Culinary Union spotlights labor role in 2024 election
[Jacob Solis and Gabby Birenbaum, 01/03/24]

  • Officially, Vice President Kamala Harris swung through Las Vegas Wednesday on a victory lap for organized labor, meeting with Culinary Workers Union Local 226 members at the union’s downtown headquarters to celebrate their recently negotiated contracts with major Las Vegas Strip casino properties.
  • Flanked by acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, the Democrats of Nevada’s congressional delegation and Culinary leadership, Harris congratulated the union members on their new contracts and mounted a defense of organized labor as the “backbone of the strength of our nation.”
  • “They’re pushing this stuff that suggests that the measure of the strength of the leader is based on who you beat down, instead of what we know,” Harris said. “The true measure of the strength of a leader is based on who you lift up.”
  • Harris — making her ninth trip to the Silver State since taking office in 2021— last came to Nevada in October, where a Q&A event at the College of Southern Nevada played out like a rally. Biden, meanwhile, turned last month’s announcement of federal dollars for a high speed rail line between Southern Nevada and Southern California into an invective that just as often bashed the Trump administration and the country’s largest corporations.
  • Undergirding both visits: Organized labor as a key pillar of Democratic electoral success.
  • On a drab and drizzly Vegas afternoon, a crowd of about 250 people, many of them red-shirted Culinary members, filled the union’s headquarters for Harris’ speech — an event that opened with a mariachi band that had much of the crowd singing along in Spanish.
  • Harris was introduced by Elena Newman, a guest room attendant at Mandalay Bay and member of the Culinary executive board who recounted Harris’ support in her prior visit.
  • “She told us that [if] we were going to strike, she will be here to walk the picket line with us,” Newman said. “And that was a very powerful message.”
  • The message also resonated for Culinary members still negotiating contracts with downtown casinos and other union properties in Las Vegas. Satoria Partridge, a Culinary member and employee at Circa in downtown Las Vegas, credited the Culinary contracts with the three biggest casino companies at least in part on White House backing, and said Harris’ visit Wednesday “means that we have people that have our back.”
  • Partridge, a registered Democrat, said she fully backed Biden’s re-election bid and wasn’t overly worried that the 81-year-old incumbent remains widely unpopular heading into 2024.
  • “I believe that the working class and the younger people are going to come in and they’re going to vote,” Partridge said. “And we’re going to get them again.”
  • “The president has never been shy about saying that unions built the middle class,” said Yvanna Cancela, a former Culinary political director who now serves as a senior adviser at The White House, in an interview before the speech. “And I think his commitment has created an environment where workers are organizing and winning.”
  • Cancela cited figures of job growth and investment in the Silver State as proof positive of Biden’s support for workers —  the White House estimates that 239,000 jobs have been added in Nevada and over $8 billion has been invested by private companies since January 2021.
  • The Biden administration’s major legislative accomplishments — the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act — all aim to spur domestic manufacturing and job creation via federal investments that favor projects with project-labor agreements and pre-hire bargaining agreements. And his Department of Labor restored the prevailing wage standard for workers on federal construction projects including the planned high-speed rail line from Las Vegas to Southern California.
  • Harris’ speech comes as the Trump campaign’s top brass circulated a memo saying the former president will be explicitly targeting Democratic constituencies including union members — a group he overperformed with in 2016, with rank-and-file members in the Midwest helping flip the traditional blue wall.
  • While in office, Trump’s National Labor Relations Board supported employers in their efforts to categorize workers as independent contractors and relaxed the standard for employers to dismantle existing worker unions — earning the ire of union leaders. 

Las Vegas Review-Journal: VP Harris congratulates Culinary on contracts, touts importance of organized labor
[Jessica Hill, 01/03/24]

  • Vice President Kamala Harris congratulated the Culinary Local 226 on its collective bargaining and touted the importance of organized labor.
  • “The strength of our nation depends on the strength of working people,” she said during a visit Wednesday to the union’s headquarters. She credited union members with the reason why workers have weekends and paid leave, as well as retirement benefits. “It is union members who have always fought and continue to fight for the rights and the dignity of working people.”
  • Harris was joined by Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su and Nevada’s Democratic federal delegates, who highlighted the Biden-Harris Administration’s economic policies and the administration’s support of workers rights to collectively bargain.
  • In November the Culinary Union reached deals with the three largest employers on the Strip, MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts. According to the union, the deals led to a historic increase in wages and workplace safety improvements.
  • Harris said the union’s contracts — which included a $3 per hour raise in the first year for full-time, non-tipped employees — set a new standard for workers across the country.
  • “They know the story of what happened here,” Harris said. “What they now know is possible, is reasonable, is right and is achievable.”
  • Democrats also looked ahead to the November 2024 election, comparing Biden’s policies with former President Donald Trump’s record. Nevada State Democratic Party Chairwoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno criticized Trump for “rolling back the power of labor” and undermining workers.

Las Vegas Sun: Harris praises Culinary on contracts in Las Vegas visit
[Katie Ann McCarver, 01/04/2024]

  • Vice President Kamala Harris visited Culinary Union headquarters in downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday, applauding the union’s recent negotiating wins with major resort companies on the Strip and saying it set a standard for other collective bargaining units nationwide.
  • Her speech was greeted with raucous applause from union members, many of whom sported bright red T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts bearing messages like “Vegas Strong” and “One Job Should Be Enough.”
  • “Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your fight. Thank you for your strength,” she told the union. “Thank you for all you do on behalf of the working people — not only of Nevada — but, by modeling what you do, working people all over our country.”
  • Last year, Nevada’s second-largest union locked down new five-year contracts with three major resort companies — Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts — for workers at more than a dozen Strip properties. Negotiations wrapped up within days of an impending strike deadline.
  • Union members have always and continue to fight for workers’ right to dignity, Harris said. And even though a strike would have required great sacrifice from Culinary members, she said, they showed they were willing to do so for the sake of workers everywhere.
  • “The strength of working people is the backbone of the strength of our nation,” she said. “Working people and, in particular, the union members, are the reason that anyone — whether you are a member of the union or not — get a weekend, get paid leave, get family leave, if you get it.”
  • “So many of you were on the frontlines forever — and during the pandemic,” Harris told the union members. “It is long overdue you got a pay raise.”
  • Elena Newman, a guest-room attendant at Mandalay Bay and member of the union for two decades, introduced Harris to the stage. She addressed the audience first, iterating that the average union worker in Las Vegas now earns $37 an hour, due to the recent negotiations.
  • Although Culinary in November settled contracts for over 40,000 employees between MGM, Caesars and Wynn, however, she said the union was still in negotiations with 23 other Las Vegas properties — including downtown resorts — for thousands of workers.
  • Daily room cleaning is not just a safety issue, but a health issue as well, said Elsa Roldan, a guest-room attendant at the Bellagio and 15-year member of the Culinary Union. Without daily room cleaning, Roldan said, the workload goes up for attendants and they have little energy to dedicate to their families.
  • “I’m happy that President (Joe) Biden and Vice President Harris support us in our fight,” Roldan said during Wednesday’s event. “And as a leader myself, I like to see a strong woman like us who helps us lead the country every day. I’m so proud that she has our back, and we have her back as well.”
  • U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., reflected on her own past with the Culinary, including working as a cocktail waitress at Caesars Palace during college. She expressed her gratitude for the union and its continued dedication to Nevadans, while also reiterating her own commitment to families.
  • “You advocate for our hardworking families,” she said. “You build up our middle class and you help Americans achieve their dream — Nevadans achieve their American dream. And unions do incredible things for workers all across this country. The support that unions provide has lifted up countless families, including mine.”
  • The U.S. saw a “remarkable era of worker power” in 2023, said Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, citing labor demonstrations among actors and writers Hollywood, auto workers, teachers and more.
  • “And now it’s 2024,” she said. “And we’re going to keep on reimagining what is possible for workers. The Biden-Harris administration is going to keep on saying loud and clear that unions make America strong. And (if) the workers do well — America does better.”
  • “There are people that would suggest that the character of leadership is to have no interest in the lives of other people,” Harris said. “When we know the true character … of a leader is to have some level of curiosity, concern and care about the suffering of other people.”

Nevada Current: Harris touts administration’s commitment to labor in Las Vegas visit
[Michael Lyle, 01/04/2024]

  • Vice President Kamala Harris boasted about the strength of the labor movement and congratulated Culinary Union 226 workers on recent successful contract negotiations, but shied away from mentions of the 2024 presidential election during a Wednesday trip to Las Vegas.
  • The visit comes months after the Culinary threatened a 35,000-worker strike on the Las Vegas Strip if MGM Resorts, Caesars, and Wynn didn’t meet contract demands, including wage increases and mandated daily room cleanings.
  • “The work you have done is, yes, about the members of this storied union, but how you in the larger movement for workers in America are setting new standards,” Harris said. “The lives of people you may never meet, who may never know your name, but because of what you’ve done they will benefit.”
  • Speaking at the union hall, Harris instead focused on “historic accomplishments through your negotiations,” adding that Culinary Union workers set new standards for workers everywhere beyond Las Vegas.
  • Harris applauded the union for being willing to strike in order to secure the contract agreement despite no assurances of how long a strike could have lasted or if union members could have been able to make ends meet.
  • “It is union members, and the working people who are members of organized labor, who have always fought and continue to fight for the rights, for dignity of working people and the dignity of work itself,” she said.
  • U.S. Department of Labor Acting Secretary Julie Su, who joined Harris on Wednesday, said the administration is working to change the narrative around the labor movement.
  • “They know union is not a bad word and It makes America strong,” she said. “They also know unions have close race and gender pay gaps.”
  • Su said Culinary workers were part of last year’s labor movement, which was “a remarkable era of worker power in America.”
  • “It was a big year for worker gains at the bargaining table from record level wage gains to more retirement security, to stronger health and safety protections, to workers demanding and getting a voice in determining the futures of their industries,” she said. “From Hollywood to health care, from delivery drivers to dock workers, from teachers to auto workers and yes to casino and culinary workers, you all made history. You are part of something much bigger.” 

KSNV: Vice President Harris joins union workers in Las Vegas to celebrate new contracts
[George Acosta and Matthew Seeman, 01/03/2024]

  • Vice President Kamala Harris celebrated union workers’ achievements during a visit to Las Vegas on Wednesday, saying their hard work will benefit workers across the U.S.
  • Harris received a warm welcome at the Culinary Union headquarters as she congratulated leaders and members for securing new contracts with major hotel operators.
  • “That is the point of collective bargaining, it is about fairness, it is a fundamental value that we as a nation say we hold sacred,” said Vice President Harris.
  • The vice president said workers make up the backbone of the nation, congratulating them for their recent efforts in achieving a milestone that didn’t come without a fight.
  • “I voted yes to our strike. I protested, I rallied, I picketed even got arrested to make sure that we have the best contract ever,” said local 226 Union Member, Glenn Wilson.
  • Union members “have always fought and continue to fight for the rights, for the dignity of working people and the dignity of work itself,” Harris told the audience.
  • “We are who move the economy and who move and who move and move them billionaire everyday, so we are going to keep fighting and we are not going to stop until we have a contract for every single worker,” said local 226 Union President Diana Valles.
  • Harris applauded the Culinary Union for achieving historic pay increases and workplace safety improvements, saying it signaled to other unions what is possible.
  • “Having a strong safety language at work is a very important issue to me. We are pushing to expand safety buttons so that more workers are protected when we are out working on the casino floors,” said Local 226 Union Member, Linda Hunt.
  • Harris says the recent achievement has signaled to other unions what is possible. “I was saying to some of the leaders who are here, I think that it’s not only going to be about what you’ve done for your own members. You guys are setting a new standard for workers across the board,” she said.

KTNV: ‘When we fight, we win’: VP congratulates Culinary Union but workers’ fight isn’t over
[Jaewon Jung, 01/03/2024]

  • Hundreds of Culinary Union Local 226 workers gathered Wednesday to hear a congratulatory message from the United States Vice President Kamala Harris.
  • Harris’ visit to Las Vegas comes on the heels of a historic employment deal made between three resort corporations: Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts in November.
  • “I do strongly believe the strength of our nation depends on the strength of working people,” Harris said. “When we fight, we win.”
  • Harris was joined by Nevada Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez-Masto along with Congressman Steven Horsford. Secretary of Labor Julie Su also made a celebratory speech.
  • But the fight isn’t over just yet for thousands of culinary union workers. Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said negotiations are still ongoing with 23 independent employers on the Strip.
  • “It’s smaller groups of workers but a much larger number of employers,” Pappageorge said. “We think we’re going to have strikes and it’s unfortunate.”
  • But while there is no deal on the table for these 7,700 workers, Pappageorge said he’s gotten support from the current Biden-Harris administration.
  • “When they say this is the most worker friendly administration in our lifetime, it’s true,” Pappageorge said.

The Messenger: Fiery Kamala Harris Hits Vegas for Culinary Union Victory Lap After ‘Historic’ Contract Win
[Adrian Carrasquillo, 01/03/24]

  • In her first stop in the New Year, Vice President Kamala Harris descended on Las Vegas and the hall of the politically important Culinary Union, not only to underscore the importance of the labor movement but to celebrate an ally as the march towards the general election this year begins in earnest.
  • After mentioning her husband and the major Nevada local officials in attendance, Harris seized on the issue of contract negotiations being about coming to a fair and equitable outcome.
  • “That’s the point of organized labor, that’s the point of collective bargaining, It’s about fairness!” Harris said, delivering the line loudly, and punctuating it by repeatedly driving her index finger toward the lectern in front of her.
  • Flanked by American flags and union signs that read “One job should be enough,” the vice president was referring to the dignity of workers after the union secured a “historic” contract in November. The union touted the contract for including the largest wage increases ever negotiated in Culinary Union’s 88 year history, workload reductions for guest room attendants, mandated daily room cleaning, increased safety protections for workers on the job, expanded technology contract language, extended recall rights, and the right for unionized workers to support non-union restaurant workers seeking to unionize.
  • “At Culinary 226, you are setting a new standard for workers everywhere of what they now know — because they know the story of what happened here — what they now know is possible, is reasonable, is right, is achievable,” she said. “So, I came back to say thank you because the work that you have done is, yes about the members of this storied union, but you in the larger movement for workers in America are setting new standards and it is making a difference.”
  • Before she left, Harris made sure to invoke the late-Reid, a figure from the state’s past who left a blue Nevada, something the Biden campaign hopes to replicate again despite the challenges it faces.
  • “It was 41 years ago today that Senator Harry Reid was sworn in for his first term in the United States Congress,” she said, noting that for those in the room who knew him personally, as she did, he would be very proud that the fight continues.
  • “The fight must continue, the fight will continue, si se puede,” she said.



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