Nevada bill would give laid-off hospitality workers first shot at jobs

CARSON CITY — Matthew Seevers was a bartender with Station Casinos for 15 years before the COVID-19 pandemic. His goal is to be there even longer.

Like the vast majority of Nevada’s hospitality workforce, Seevers was let go after casinos statewide were ordered closed in mid-March to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

As the state now heads toward fully reopening, Seevers is still unsure about if he will return to his job. The casino where he worked, the Fiesta Henderson, is still closed.

“It’s been radio silence,” Seevers said. “There’s been no contact. As far as they’re concerned, we’re no longer employed with Station Casinos.”

Nevada lawmakers are considering a bill that could potentially help workers like Seevers.

Senate Bill 386, led by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, would give hospitality workers laid off during the pandemic the right of first return at their former workplaces. It does not apply to people fired for disciplinary reasons.

Seevers, who has worked part-time jobs since he was laid off, said it is “common sense to do the right thing, to rehire the people who were in those positions.”

Members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the Bartenders Union Local 165 and the Service Employees International Union Local 1107 rallied in front of the Legislature on Tuesday in support of the bill.

Many of Nevada’s casinos, along with the Nevada Resort Association, oppose the measure, citing possible litigation and potential delays in hiring.

“Aside from being unnecessary, the bill would further damage Nevada’s recovery efforts by placing an arduous burden on employers through needless, time-consuming and counterproductive requirements that will significantly slow down rehiring and further delay bringing more Nevadans back to work,” the Nevada Resort Association said in a statement. “It would also open the door for frivolous lawsuits and further distract the tourism industry from its recovery efforts.”

The association said many resorts continued paying employees while casinos were closed, extended health benefits and established employee assistance funds. The industry was “committed to lessening the impact on its team members for as long as possible,” the association said.

Gaming companies and casinos, including Affinity Gaming, the South Point and Red Rock Resorts, which operates Station Casinos, have gone on the record as opposing the measure.

Of concern specifically is a mandate that casinos allow former employees 10 days to decide if they will accept a new job offer.

Lawmakers have not voted on the bill. Cannizzaro said it is not dead but with the legislative session ending this month, lawmakers must move quickly to pass it.

“Everybody keeps saying we don’t want to work, and that’s not true,” said Shelly Stewart, a longtime employee laid off from Main Street Station in downtown Las Vegas.

“I want to go back to my job. You don’t make that much money on unemployment,” she said.