Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
January 4, 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.”
Absent from the vice president’s speech were any mentions of the upcoming election or former President Donald Trump, the current Republican frontrunner and likely nominee.
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.
The Culinary’s contract, which was approved by union workers in November, included a 10% wage increase in the first year and a 32% increase over five years, as well as greater protections against the threats posed by emerging technologies that could replace jobs.
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.
The speech to union members comes after organized labor from various sectors went on strike throughout 2023 in order to secure wage increases and worker protections.
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.”
Biden made a historic visit to the United Auto Workers picket lines in September, the first time in modern history a sitting president visited an active strike.
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.”
Wednesday’s visit also featured U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who narrowly won her re-election bid in 2022, as well as U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen and U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, both up for re-election this year.
In addition to revering union strength and the administration’s commitment to the labor movement, the delegation boasted legislative accomplishments, including the passage of the American Rescue Plan, Inflation Reduction Act, and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
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