|By Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 22, 2008 - --The area's most powerful union is using its resources and connections to help its most vulnerable members during the economic downturn.
Culinary Local 226 officials said they believe nearly 10 percent of the union's 60,000 members have been laid off or had their hours reduced at member properties.
Last week, the union's hall on Commerce Street, north of the Stratosphere, was converted into a one-stop help center for members needing assistance navigating agencies and services.
D. Taylor, the union's secretary-treasurer, said job reductions at local casinos accelerated in October, so the union will have a "better read on the impact" of job cuts on its membership in the next few weeks.
"What we're going to do is make sure no one is left alone," Taylor said. "We're going to pull through this together."
Official numbers from the state's Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation showed Friday that hotel-casinos across Nevada had 2,300 fewer jobs in October than they had in the same month a year earlier. That's a labor-force decline of 1.1 percent. In Las Vegas, hotel-casinos were down about 600 jobs, or 0.3 percent of the resort work force.
Union officials were at the help center to help answer questions about the union's health fund and Culinary Training Academy, and provide food assistance through United Labor Agency of Nevada and housing consultation.
NV Energy, Southwest Gas Corp. were also involved with the center. So were state social service agencies; they helped union members file for unemployment and food stamps
Union spokeswoman Pilar Weiss said approximately 1,000 members used the four-day facility.
With more workers possibly facing layoffs or reduced hours, the union is considering opening the center again, possibly as early as next month.
"We're trying to make sure any of our folks who are in this situation don't have to drive all over town for a variety of different services," Taylor said. "We're trying to put it under one roof."
MGM Mirage, which owns 10 Strip properties, has laid off nearly 1,500 union and nonunion local workers, while Harrah's Entertainment has let go nearly 1,800 union and nonunion workers at its eight properties.
Wynn Resorts Ltd., which publicly has said it has not laid off any workers, is readying its $2.2 billion Encore for a Dec. 22 opening.
Weiss couldn't say how many of the 5,300 new jobs at Encore will be filled by out-of-work union members.
But two new properties -- the Eastside Cannery, which opened in August on Boulder Highway and Aliante Station, which opened last week in North Las Vegas -- are nonunion properties. Therefore, they offered no relief for out-of-work union members.
Details about any job cuts at individual Strip properties including Planet Hollywood Resort, Tropicana, Riviera, Stratosphere and the Las Vegas Hilton were unavailable.
"There is still a large number of full-time workers," Taylor said. "But anytime you have people who are economically displaced it's excruciating."
The union set up a similar center following the layoffs after Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when between 12,000 and 15,000 union and nonunion workers were laid off and thousands more having their hours cut.
Taylor said this time around, job cuts have come in waves.
"But that doesn't mean it's not painful for those who are affected," he said.
The turnaround following the terrorist attacks, however, was "somewhat quick," Taylor said. "Here I can't make any predictions nor can anybody."
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