Las Vegas hotel union holds vigil, offers workers mental health services
People assist a wounded woman during the Las Vegas shooting. | AP

LAS VEGAS—Nevada’s biggest union, Culinary Workers Local 226, which represents workers at most of the hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas strip, held an October 2 late-afternoon vigil honoring the 59 dead and 530 wounded in the mass shooting here. It also appealed for blood donations from its members and offered them free –- and union-paid — mental health services, too.

And one big concern was to see if everyone of its members was safe, including its 4,000 members who work at the Mandalay Bay, from where gunman Steven Paddock, 64, fired from the 32nd floor.

It was the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. GOP President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. flag at the White House lowered to half-mast as bells tolled. Trump also said he would travel to Las Vegas later this week. But spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “it would be premature to discuss” gun control “policy when we don’t know all the facts” of the shooting. Trump is a strong gun rights backer.

Paddock, whom police said later took his own life, killed at least 59 people and wounded at least 500 by shooting downwards into the crowd massed for a popular country music festival, starting before midnight on October 1 and extending into the early-morning hours of October 2.

Paddock started with six shots, paused, then opened up with two long bursts of gunfire eyewitnesses told Las Vegas media.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, tourists, first responders, and workers affected by last night’s horrific attack,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the union’s Secretary-Treasurer and public face.

“Culinary Union staff spent the night and all morning phone-banking workers to make sure everyone was OK. Workers, in addition to guests, were on lock-down across the Las Vegas Strip until approximately 7:30 am this morning,” she added.

The union also represents hundreds of workers at nearby Pat McCarran International Airport and its surrounding hotels. Many of the concertgoers fled there to escape the cascade of bullets.

One eyewitness told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that people were able to enter the airport and flee across the tarmac after one concertgoer jumped in his pickup truck and drove it through the fencing around the airport, creating a hole. Others took cover behind cars, food trucks and other vehicles.

Before the scheduled memorial vigil, Local 226 organizers spent the rest of October 2 “conducting an outreach program in employee dining rooms supporting workers today and sharing in the pain our community is feeling,” Arguello-Kline added.

“This will not paralyze our city – we will continue to work together with the resorts on ensuring workers are protected at work and safe,” she promised. “Nevada is our home and we will not live in fear.”

The union also set up a toll-free number for families concerned about their loved ones (1-866-535-5654), including workers and concertgoers.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.