Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, Local 226

A few posts back I noted how well organized the Culinary Workers Union was in Las Vegas and now Harold Meyerson has a great article on just how they got that way:

Local 226 is probably the largest -- and surely the most remarkable -- local union in the United States. While most unions have been shrinking or struggling to hold their own over the past several decades, and while hotel union membership has declined from 16 percent of the hotel workforce in 1983 to 12 percent in 2000, Local 226 has grown by 30,000 members since its low point in 1988. It has done that by organizing virtually every hotel on the Vegas Strip, so that roughly 90 percent of the jobs in the city's major hotels are unionized. Considering that Nevada is a right-to-work state where employees can work in unionized workplaces without joining the union, this is a breathtaking achievement.

It's really a remarkable story that's most dramatic when Vegas is juxtaposed with it's sister city to the north, Reno:

The consequences of that transformation are plainly visible in Vegas. UNLV economist C. Jeffery Waddoups has compared the hotel industries in Nevada's two major gambling centers, concluding that the median wage for hotel work in Vegas is 40.2 percent higher than in nonunion Reno. The union in Vegas has also narrowed the disparity between white and Hispanic living standards. (Local 226 is 43 percent Hispanic, 41 percent white.) Fully 81 percent of non-Hispanic and 78 percent of Hispanic hotel and gaming employees in Vegas have job-based health insurance, a level of parity not found in other sectors of the local economy. Among Vegas construction workers, for instance, 70 percent of non-Hispanic workers have such coverage, while just 41 percent of Hispanic employees do.

MORE: I almost forgot: if you're looking for a chaser for the Meyerson piece, here's a great New Yorker article about short order cooks in Vegas.

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