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Compromise on Nevada’s worker return bill doesn’t please all

Updated May 28, 2021 - 9:31 pm

CARSON CITY — Resorts and the Culinary union struck a compromise this week on a bill that would give gaming and hospitality employees who were laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic the right of first refusal for their old jobs, but some casinos and small-business groups are still pushing back against the measure.

The Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee on Thursday approved Senate Bill 386, which would require employers in the gaming and resort companies, large event centers and airport employers to offer back jobs to workers who were laid off or furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate approved the measure earlier this week along party lines.

Numerous gaming companies initially opposed the bill, calling it too onerous and counterproductive to the industries’ recovery efforts. But a compromise was reached between some of the biggest stakeholders, including the Nevada Resort Association and the politically powerful Culinary Local 226, giving the bill life in the waning days of the Legislature.

Under the amended bill, workers would have at least 24 hours to accept or decline the job offer before employers moved on to the employee next in line in seniority.

Bob Ostrovsky, a lobbyist representing the Nevada Resort Association, said that the group is officially neutral on the bill after a majority vote from its board.

“It’s a bill that we decided we can live with but we can’t support and have pledged to not take a position in opposition,” Ostrovsky said.

But some fissures remain among the Southern Nevada resort companies on the compromise, and the bill still faces opposition from small-business groups who want a carve-out for other businesses that operate on gaming and airport properties.

Barry Lieberman, an attorney representing the South Point, noted during Thursday’s meeting that the property is still against the bill despite the resort group being neutral.

Small-business groups, including the chambers of commerce from Las Vegas and the Reno/Sparks area, also opposed the compromise bill because they are worried about how it will affect the smaller employers operating on resort, event center and airport properties.

“Our concerns are about the small, locally owned, independent business that is not owned by the hotel properties that happened to be located on the hotel property through a lease that may be unintentionally impacted,” said Paul Moradkhan of the Vegas Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Resorts and casinos laid off tens of thousands of workers amid the pandemic as Nevada’s gaming- and tourism-based economy came to a screeching halt.

While Nevada’s economy has recovered and the jobless rate has fallen significantly from its peak of 29.5 percent in April 2020 to 8.3 percent in February of this year, it still ranks among the worst states for unemployment currently.

After initially vetoing a similar proposal last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a right to return bill for California hotel, event center and hospitality employees in April. That came after several California communities, including Los Angeles (both the city and county), Long Beach, Glendale and Santa Monica, passed local versions of the recall law.

SB386 awaits a vote in the full Assembly before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.