Donald Trump walked out the front entrance of his Las Vegas hotel Tuesday evening and waved to onlookers as he stepped inside a black SUV, paying no attention to the union protesters marching along the street nearby.
Trump was clearly more concerned with Nevada’s Republican caucuses today. But for the demonstrators with the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, their march outside the Trump International Hotel was the main event, planned to coincide with the caucuses in hopes of drawing attention to the union’s organizing efforts.
For about two hours, demonstrators marched down a stretch of sidewalk on Fashion Show Drive in front of the hotel, carrying signs emblazoned with the message “No contract / No peace” and repeating similar chants. Their gathering followed a smaller event Monday night at the South Point, where Trump spoke to a crowd of thousands.
It also follows the Culinary’s announcement in December that a majority of eligible employees at the Trump hotel had voted in favor of joining it and the Bartenders Union Local 165, which are both affiliates of Unite Here. The hotel has contested the election, arguing that it wasn’t a fair process.
But union backers say that Trump employees have shown clearly that they want to be represented by organized labor. They say a union contract would provide for better health insurance and job security, among other benefits.
Maria Jaramillo, 36, said she’s been working at the Trump hotel for seven years as a guest room attendant. She said it’s “OK” working there, but that the situation would be better with a contract — a situation she’s familiar with, having previously worked at Mandalay Bay, which is unionized.
Jaramillo can list off all the reasons why she prefers working in a unionized environment, but one particular Culinary benefit that stands out to her: a free health insurance plan.
“I got four kids, so it’s really expensive (at Trump),” she said.
Over the weekend, the Culinary announced that a hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board recommended that the Trump hotel’s objections to the union election be “overruled in their entirety.” But the hotel disagrees with that report.
“The hearing officer’s recommendations erroneously disregarded the severe misconduct undertaken by union agents, which clearly impacted an incredibly close election,” Jill Martin, assistant general counsel for the Trump Organization, said in an emailed statement Monday. “We will continue our fight to ensure a fair election for our valued associates, many of whom vigorously oppose union representation.”
Among the demonstrators Tuesday was state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, a Las Vegas Democrat who’s running for Congress. Kihuen’s mother, a guest room attendant at MGM Grand, is a longtime Culinary member, and he was recently endorsed by the union.
“When I see those employees out there picketing, I see my mother, my brother and the hardworking people that make Las Vegas the successful city that it is today. And it is a shame that Donald Trump has refused to come to the table to negotiate with the Culinary Union,” Kihuen said in an interview.
The Culinary protesters were not the only ones demonstrating outside the Trump hotel on caucus day.
Across the street was a lone man wearing a Donald Trump mask with a Pinocchio-like long nose affixed to it. He danced in front of some signs with messages such as “Liar liar, pants on fire / Only hatred you inspire.”
He identified himself as Gil Mobley, a doctor from Springfield, Mo., and said the music he was dancing to was actually his own version of B.B. King’s “Everybody Lies A Little,” which he had changed to focus on Trump’s alleged lies.
Mobley came to Las Vegas for “protesting against Trump primarily,” he said, but also to attend a conference at the Rio. He said he’s been “extremely disturbed” by Trump’s record with the truth.
“(Trump) has labeled every other presidential candidate one way or the other, and he needs to be labeled as a pathological liar with self-interest as his primary purpose,” Mobley said.
As the primary race continues, the doctor-turned-dancing-protester said he plans to follow Trump around the country — “schedule and finances permitting” — for as long as possible.
“Until I give up, and he’s the inevitable presidential candidate,” Mobley said.