Culinary union to dismiss suit against MGM Resorts over COVID-19-related worker protections

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The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 filed a motion this week to dismiss a lawsuit against MGM Resorts International that claimed the company did not properly protect casino and resort workers from COVID-19 when Las Vegas' gaming industry reopened last month.

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Instead, MGM Resorts and the union will resolve matters in "expedited arbitration" outside of court, which is scheduled to begin sometime this week, the union announced in a press release.

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“An expedited arbitration with MGM Resorts is scheduled this week," said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the culinary union. "This arbitration is a first step and the Culinary Union will continue to negotiate aggressively and take any other steps necessary to ensure workers and their families are protected from the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace."

The union represents 60,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno.

According to the lawsuit, The Signature at the MGM Grand and Sadelle’s Cafe at Bellagio — both owned by MGM Resorts International – "adopted unreasonable rules and procedures for addressing the spread of COVID-19" after Las Vegas' gaming industry reopened on June 4, which the union claimed put the "life and health of Joint Board members, their families, and their communities in grave danger."

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The lawsuit alleged that the company did not shut down food and beverage venues as well as other work areas after learning that there were positive cases amongst staff. The suit also states that the properties "failed to conduct adequate contact tracing prior to permitting employees who worked with positive co-workers to return to work" and did not "immediately inform" fellow employees when a co-worker had tested positive for the virus. The suit further alleges that the venues "provided workers with flatly false information about how COVID-19 spreads and what its symptoms are, in an effort to keep workers on the job and revenues flowing."

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The union claims these actions left workers who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 or live with someone who is at a higher risk of contracting the virus "guessing as to what precautions they must take."

Earlier this month the Bellagio and Signature claimed they were never made aware of any proposed safety concerns from the union until the lawsuit was filed and moved to dismiss the case, Eater reported.

“The Culinary Union filed a frivolous lawsuit asserting that we did not have adequate health and safety protocols," a spokesperson for MGM Resorts told FOX Business. They have now made a motion to dismiss their lawsuit after we challenged them in court. We hope that the Culinary Union will work collaboratively with us in the future when it comes to health and safety issues.”

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Meanwhile, the union is continuing its lawsuit against Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar at The Linq, which is owned by Caesars Entertainment and co-managed by Harrah's, alleging proper protocols were not followed after a food runner tested positive for the virus.

Caesars declined FOX Business' request for comment.

The union will collect worker statements "regarding unsafe working conditions throughout the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas, and will support the courageous workers who have come forward to share their experiences."

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Since March 22, culinary union members and/or their dependents have died from the virus, the union said. Through July 15, roughly 352 culinary and bartenders union members and their spouses or dependents were hospitalized.

And, since Nevada casinos were allowed to reopen on June 4, the number of hospitalizations for both culinary and bartender union members and their spouses or dependents surged 860 percent, according to the union.

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