‘His life was taken away’: Culinary Union sues Las Vegas casinos as COVID-19 spreads

LAS VEGAS – On his final shift, Adolfo Fernandez could barely push his cart.

The Culinary Union porter worked in Caesars Palace's housekeeping department. In his final days, the hardworking man with high blood pressure worried about COVID-19.

He got tested, and his results came back negative, but still he felt uneasy.

"I know I'm gonna get get sick at work, I just know it," he told his daughter. "The company is not keeping us safe."

With bills to pay and a family to support, he had no choice but to return to work.

Adolfo Ferndez, a Caesars Palace utility porter, died June 24 of COVID-19. He was 51.

When body aches consumed him, he told his manager, who told him to take a sick day.

"But he didn't, because he's a hardworking man," said his daughter, Irma Fernandez. "He turned around and went back to work."

Later that night he came down with a fever.

On June 24, Adolfo Fernandez died of COVID-19. He was 51.

"My dad always fought for justice for him (and) his coworkers to be respected and taken care of," his daughter said. "His life was taken away, and now he's in heaven."

The hotel worker's death is the heart of why Nevada's most powerful labor union is now suing three Las Vegas Strip resorts to prevent more frontline casino workers from falling ill with the contagious respiratory illness.

Culinary Union workers picket outside The Palms in Las Vegas on Feb. 18, 2020.

The lawsuit

Fernandez's story is not in the lawsuit filed Monday, but the Culinary Union alleges hotel-casinos have not protected workers from the spread of the coronavirus.

“The current rules and procedures in place for responding to workers contracting COVID-19 have been wholly and dangerously inadequate,” the union said in a statement.

Workers were not properly distanced, quarantined – or, in some cases, notified – following the positive test of a co-worker, according to the lawsuit.

Read the full lawsuit here:

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief against three Strip properties owned by MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment:

The Signature Suites at MGM GrandSadelle's, a restaurant at BellagioGuy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar at Harrah’s

Eric Weininger has worked as a cook at Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar for six years. When a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19, he said, Caesars Entertainment was "blasé about it."

“Things were not handled properly,” Weininger said.

Although Weininger and others came in contact with the worker who tested positive, they were not required to quarantine for 14 days. They were welcomed to return to work.

To Weininger – who has an asthmatic autistic child and a grandmother at home – that's unacceptable.

“The way Caesars handled it is truly disgusting and I think they can do better,” he said.

Jonathan Munoz, another employee at Guy Fieri’s, said he was not required to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to work.

“I feel the company doesn’t care,” Munoz said. “I want the company to treat us like humans not machines that only make money for them.”

Officials at Caesars Entertainment were not immediately available for comment Monday.

In a statement, MGM Resorts said the company has spent months working with health experts to create a comprehensive health and safety plan.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of everyone inside of our properties," the statement said. "The nation is in the midst of a public health crisis and we are relying on all of our employees to follow CDC guidance both at work and at home.”

Culinary Union's demands

In response to the lawsuit, the Culinary Union wants hotel-casinos to abide by the following requirements:

Daily cleaning of guest rooms Testing of all employees for COVID-19 before returning to work and regular testing thereafter.Providing adequate COVID-19 PPE for employees.Enforcing social distancing and other COVID-19 prevention measures. Requiring guests to wear face masks in all public areas.Posting a COVID-19 safety plan on public-facing website.

Pushing for mask requirement

The union last week called for state leaders to require visitors to wear masks in all public spaces at hotel-casinos to protect workers.

"Workers have fears," Argüello-Kline said.

Amid a sudden spike of coronavirus cases in Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all residents and tourists to wear face coverings in public and inside private businesses, like the many beckoning resorts dotting The Strip.

The mandate went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, and most casino guests appeared to comply.

COVID-19 cases in Nevada are surging

The known number of Nevadans who have tested positive for the coronavirus reached 17,894 on Monday morning, according to the Nevada Health Alliance dashboard.

That’s an increase of 734 new cases over what was previously reported on Sunday.

Four additional deaths were reported, bringing the total to 504.

The state's seven-day average positive test rate dipped to 15.7%, the first drop since June 15. The rate still exceeds the World Health Organization's recommended test rate goal of 5% for economies to reopen.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/06/30/culinary-union-sue-las-vegas-casinos-protect-workers-covid-19/3284185001/

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