Vassiliadis said unions in the Southwest win loyalty by helping immigrants enter the middle class and turn low-wage jobs into stable sources of health insurance. In the Rust Belt, he said, labor is trying to maintain generations-old victories.
‘‘They've done a heck of a job at being the ones who brought Latinos into the mainstream, provided them health insurance and pensions,’’ Vassiliadis said. ‘‘In the Rust Belt, you’re looking at third- and fourth-generation auto workers, folks who have always had health insurance. They never had to fight for these things and over time (unions') relevance has faded.’’
The union isn’t afraid to play hardball. It famously went on strike for six years and ended up closing a casino that resisted organizing. It’s now trying to organize the Station casinos off the Strip in a campaign that could last as long. But Culinary also has generally warm relations with the gambling industry and helps defend its interests.
In partnership with the casinos, Culinary created an academy that trains workers to become housekeepers or sommeliers and offers English classes. The new head of Culinary, replacing Taylor, is a Nicaraguan immigrant and former housekeeper.
Taylor cited Culinary’s track record and member outreach as the reason so many workers pay dues.
‘‘They know,’’ he said, ‘‘that, together, they have more strength.’’
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