Here’s why these Las Vegas casino hotel workers are getting together

LAS VEGAS – Rocky and Barbara Colavito stand outside Lucy’s Ethiopian restaurant.

It’s a Saturday afternoon near Chinatown, two miles from the Strip, and they’re lining up. But this married couple is not here for the sambusas.

They vote early in The Nevada Democratic Caucus, a key step in a long and uncertain candidate selection process against President Donald Trump in November.

Colavitos are blackjack dealers.

Unlike their hotel counterparts, the Bellagio card merchants are not unionized. But like many Las Vegans, the couple came here from elsewhere with their version of the American Dream, and working on the casino floor helped them get there: getting a living wage and full-time hours they could buy. a house, to support the children in school and to retire.

Today, retirement is the only unchecked box, and dealers consider themselves lucky. The rest of their dream came true: a house in Spring Valley, three daughters with college scholarships and good paychecks for mom and dad.

The Colavitos represent two workers at the Bellagio Precinct, the most valuable voting block in Saturday’s caucus – worth 51 delegates to the Democratic county convention.

The USA TODAY Network explored what motivates voters in this crucial constituency and found a common thread that binds them: fear that Trump’s four more years in the White House would erode the station worker’s path to a fad of stable and middle-class life.

“It’s going to jeopardize livelihoods,” Rocky Colavito said. “And I’m not talking about extravagance or lavish – the basics.”

The Mineros start a family

Mariano Minaro has worked in the hotel industry for three decades. Half that time he worked on the Bellagio housekeeping crew. His hands show it.

When the 64-year-old Honduran is not sweeping, he is filling bottles with chemicals for the housekeepers who tidy the 4,000 rooms of the famous resort.

Mariano Minaro spent 15 years working on the Bellagio cleaning crew.

In 2004, he and his wife, Maria, moved from their apartment building near downtown Los Angeles to Las Vegas, a budding hotel city with plenty of hotel jobs and perks they couldn’t find anywhere else: representation union, living wages, full weeks of work and a health care plan that did not divert money from savings.

The Mineros got jobs at Bellagio a year apart. They have since been part of the Culinary Union – Nevada’s largest immigrant organization, representing 60,000 workers, mostly women and mostly Latinos.

Mariano Minaro, 64, has been on the Bellagio cleaning staff for 15 years.

At first, Minero said, the couple were both making around $ 14 an hour. Now they are making around $ 20. Steady and rising wages have enabled the family of three boys to buy a four-bedroom house with a yard and garage in a neighborhood in northern Las Vegas with playing kids and barking dogs.

“It was my goal coming to Las Vegas – finding a job and a home,” Minero said. “I thank God.”

Immigrants in fear

In the world of Minero, he got many details of the dream he and his wife brought to Las Vegas.

Still, he worries.

He is a citizen, but not his wife. She holds a green card and plans to get citizenship with union help, but Trump administration decision has been hard to ignore deployment of American border agents in “sanctuary” cities.

Minero often sails dark thoughts of the government rounding up his non-citizen siblings and wives and shipping them to El Salvador.

When he goes to the polls, he thinks of them.

The president, Minaro said, “is not stable”.

This is a point of view shared at the top of the union.

Geoconda Arguello-Kline has been part of the Culinary Union for 30 years. A Nicaraguan immigrant, she started here as a maid. Now secretary-treasurer of the union, she is a familiar voice during election cycles and protests against casinos reluctant to allow employees to organize.

“I have never seen a president attack immigrants like he does,” Arguello-Kline said. “He wants to use special forces to attack immigrants – people who work every day, who go to work and take care of their families, people who make an incredible contribution,” he says are criminals. They only see this when the immigrants have a different skin color. “

Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Union.

Bellagio enclosure rises

While waiting in front of the Ethiopian restaurant near Chinatown, the Colavitos remember.

“I miss the good old days,” said Barbara Colavito.

She moved to Las Vegas in 1969 and worked as a cocktail waitress at the long-closed International Hotel: “When Elvis was there,” she said.

There were fewer people at the time, the traffic was less dense.

“What about who controlled the casinos?” Her husband asked, a knowing smile spreading across his face.

Barbara smiles. “I loved it before the companies took over,” she said. “It was more family-friendly. They took care of you.

Now they are looking for a candidate ready to take care of the country.

Rocky likes Elizabeth warren.

“She’s not afraid to stand up as a woman,” he said. “She is opposed to something that has never happened in this country – a woman president.”

See what others are reading:

Barbara likes Bernie sanders.

“He’s anti-establishment, which is why,” she said. “He’s against everything Trump stands for, and I love it.”

The Colavitos walked into the restaurant and picked their candidates, hours from their graveyard shifts at the blackjack tables, where they were busy until the end of the night.

Ed komenda written on Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? So support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here.

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