At Trump Towers Las Vegas, Workers Fight to Unionize

Lead Photo: Don Emmert / AFP-Getty Images
Don Emmert / AFP-Getty Images
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There are fewer than five miles between Trump Tower and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, but a world of difference in how they treat their employees. Honduran-born Miguel Funes would know: For the last five years he has shuffled between the two, and has been able to contrast the two first hand. “$9.11 [an hour] at Trump and Mandalay Bay is $13.81, plus benefits,” Funes told PRI. “Benefits represents being able to go to the doctor with the kids without being bankrupt and in debt.”At Mandalay Bay, Funes also has a pension.

Meanwhile, at Trump Tower Funes and other workers at the hotel say they were forced to do work outside of their duties and of had to punch out for lunch – meaning they didn’t get paid for that time.

The difference is that Mandalay Bay is unionized, and Trump Tower is not. Now, hundreds of housekeepers, cooks, and waiters are picketing in front of Trump Tower, in hopes that it becomes unionized like more than 95 percent of hotels on the Vegas strip.

Some of Trump’s hotels are unionized, but his Las Vegas team is pushing back against a union. “Mr. Trump says he wants to ‘Make America Great Again.’ But that’s just a big lie, because he doesn’t want to give his own employees what we deserve,” Funes said. “How can I believe he wants to make America great again? How? I don’t understand how.”

In February, Trump said he has a great relationship with unions, but for more than half a year, he’s sparred with employees who want to unionize. Doing so could mean an increase of about $3.33 per hour for workers, and because he’s running for the presidency, it could also mean a boost in voters. In December, the majority of 500 Trump Tower hotel workers voted to join the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, according to the Los Angeles Times. Trump’s team claimed that union officials coerced employees, and they tried to challenge the vote, but lost. Trump is appealing the decision, and if his side loses again, he’ll have a legal obligation to negotiate a contract.

However, according to Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, Trump may try to use loopholes to delay the negotiating process for years. His 2000 book The America We Deserve praises unions. “In fact, with the globalization craze in full heat, unions are about the only political force reminding us to remember the American working family.”

Now, as he stands in the way of these words, people like Funes wonder how Trump would feel if the Republican Party tried to cheat him out of the votes he earned. “I would like to ask [how] he’s going to feel about it?” Funes told PRI. “That’s the same way we feel. He [doesn’t] recognize that we win by election, that we want union. I would like to see his face when the Republican Party [doesn’t] recognize him as the winner for the nomination. It’s the same, you see? I think it’s God giving him a lesson right now.”