Image by Josh Androsky
Last week I had a chance to stay at the Trump International, a premiere non-smoking, non-gaming luxury hotel, that towers above a relatively sparse section of the famed Vegas Strip. Aside from the dizzying branding of Trump's own name, the hotel itself isn't much different from others that dot the strip: It boasts room service, cushy robes, premium television, and on-demand porn.Trump has got to be the first presidential candidate who's ever owned a business that sold porn, and certainly the only Republican to have ever (openly) hawked gay porn.
The fact that this hasn't been mentioned in an increasingly sensational and bombastic campaign speaks to just how desperate conservatives voters are to have candidate who is not Marco Rubio.
Staying at the hotel is one thing, but what is it like to work there?I asked a spa worker in the elevator if she was participating in the election. She looked at the ground and replied, "Oh, no… no."When asked if he was caucusing, a doorman responded, "He's probably there now." I clarified that I wasn't referring to Trump. "Oh, I'm definitely caucusing!" When asked who he was pulling for, he laughed, "I'm not supposed to talk about that."
I found a valet who seemed more open to talk politics, but as soon we started he reached down to his walkie-talkie and whispered, "The boss is at home base."The orange eagle had landed. Trump had arrived at The Trump.
"How do I feel working for Trump? I'm an immigrant. It's a job." Carmen says. "We don't have security."
The entrance was as full as I'd ever seen it: mostly fans, a few journalists, and even an impersonator or two. People shouted exclamations of support at the infamous businessman. He stopped in his own gift shop for a few minutes before disappearing into an elevator. At that moment, my attention turned to a low roar from outside.Hundreds of Culinary Union workers occupied the sidewalk right outside the hotel entrance chanting, "No contract! No peace!"
I approached the line and spoke with Carmen, a 62-year-old guest room attendant in the housekeeping department."How do I feel working for Trump? I'm an immigrant. It's a job." Carmen said. "We don't have security."In December of last year, approximately 500 employees of the Trump International hotel voted to join the Culinary Workers Union, which represents the majority of hotel workers on the Las Vegas strip. Vegas is a union town: roughly 95 percent of Strip workers are dues-paying members.
Most casino moguls, like Steve Wynn, offer organized labor a certain amount of magnanimity. Indeed, in 2005 Wynn agreed to a ten-year labor contract with the culinary workers, keeping wages high and benefits secure.Then there's Trump, who broke with Vegas tradition and ran a nasty anti-union campaign to dissuade his employees from organizing. According to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, five employees were illegally suspended for organizing activity and wearing pro-union buttons.According to Bethany Khan, a representative of Culinary Workers Union, Trump's Vegas workers are paid approximately $3.33 less per hour across all positions when compared to union workers on the Las Vegas Strip.Despite alleged verbal abuse and physical assault to break the union drive, 86 percent of Trump International employees voted to join the union in December of 2015. Trump and hotel management have refused to recognize the union.
However, the Republican front-runner did negotiate and approve a contract for staff in one of his Canadian hotels. Las Vegas workers are asking that Trump do the same with them. In an attempt to kick-start negotiations, the Culinary Workers are following Trump to primary states asking that he "make America great again" by sitting down at the negotiating table.
In protest, the workers are packing a literal bargaining table with members of the union and signs that say "Trump: Make America Great Again – Make a Deal with Us!"On primary day in Vegas last week, the bargaining team rallied, then took their places at the bargaining table, hoping Trump would join them. He didn't."He says he wants to be president of this country to make America better again," Carmen say, "so he should start right here with his workers."Attempts to reach a Trump International spokesperson were unsuccessful.