As the backbone of Nevada’s gaming and hospitality industry, more than 98% of the 60,000 members of the Culinary Workers Union/UNITE HERE Local 226 and thousands of other union members have been laid off since the pandemic began. Now, Nevada’s labor movement is swiftly responding to the unprecedented scale of need among union members and their families.
The United Labor Agency of Nevada (ULAN)—a partnership of the Culinary Workers Union, the Nevada State AFL-CIO, community organizations and Las Vegas-area labor unions—is providing services to not only union members, but also to people in the community who have been impacted by COVID-19.
“A number of different affiliates have contributed both funds and volunteers,” said Rusty McAllister (IAFF), executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO. “A large part of the labor federation’s relief efforts are done through ULAN, helping to raise money and provide relief to those in need.” ULAN was founded 25 years ago by the Culinary Workers Union and the state federation. McAllister is currently serving as chairman of its board.
In addition to its food pantry, which receives funding from the United Way of Southern Nevada, ULAN also is offering rent and utility assistance, as well as handing out gift cards that were purchased from grocery retailers. And while ULAN is based in southern Nevada, the Northern Nevada Central Labor Council is also stepping up to help members in need.
Union members from a wide range of unions, including Bricklayers (BAC) Local 13, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Local 88 and Teamsters locals 631 and 986, have been volunteering their time and efforts to help their brothers and sisters who are out of work. The Teamsters locals recently teamed up to bring a truckload of food from Southern California to Las Vegas to bolster the state’s relief efforts.
“I’ve seen firsthand what labor can do when we get involved and come together. Just the amount of work and effort from our union members is incredible,” McAllister said. “The tough part for Nevada is that we’re always one of the first states to suffer from an economic downturn and one of the last to recover.”
UNITE HERE’s Culinary Training Academy has put union members to work to run their own drive-through food bank. The Culinary Union’s members have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and many of the Nevada State AFL-CIO’s affiliated unions have stepped up to donate funds.
“Look out for each other,” McAllister said to union members across the country. “Those who have work, help out your brothers and sisters who are hurting as much as you can.”
This blog was published at AFL-CIO on May 4, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Aaron Gallant is a contributor for AFL-CIO.