Nonunion restaurants along the Vegas strip are fueling a campaign to organize them.

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Last August, Lionel Guerrero was hauling trash bags out of Alexxa’s, a restaurant known for its creative cocktails and live music inside Paris Las Vegas, when he bumped into a woman wearing a union button. The organizer’s button was out of place at Alexxa’s, which is not unionized, but it might have appeared elsewhere at Paris Las Vegas. The complex, owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment, has been unionized since opening in 1999. But Caesars leased a restaurant space to local restaurateur JRS Hospitality, which opened Alexxa’s in 2018. Guerrero started washing dishes there soon after.

Guerrero, 58, still washes dishes at the restaurant — and earns $16 an hour. Care covered by the health insurance Alexxa’s provides is too expensive to use, he said. He had brightened when he saw the organizer. “A union would be good here,” he told her. “Why don’t we do it?” 

Other workers inside Paris Las Vegas were among the 40,000 union members celebrating a five-year contract signed with three casinos in November that included raises of 32% over the period. Today, union members earn an average of $28 an hour, including benefits; by the end of the contract in 2028, wages will average about $37 an hour.


José de Jesús Zúñiga has worked at Alexxa’s for about three years and has spent his entire restaurant career in nonunion kitchens. At 58, he looks a decade younger, with unlined skin and a clean-shaven face. “I never thought I’d get involved with the union,” he said. But a struggle last year to get paid overtime helped push him to become a leader in the union organizing campaign. “I see the union as a chance to help us solve our problems,” he said. “And economically, it would be big.” Like Guerrero, Zúñiga earns $16 an hour.  

Since he went public in support of the union last summer, Zúñiga said he feels that he has been targeted by management. A week after wearing a union button to work, he said that he was written up for clocking in early — something he had done often before without incident. Then he was demoted from chef’s assistant to dishwasher. “It’s been very hard, exhausting, stressful,” he said with a sigh. That fall, he went to the hospital emergency room only to learn he’d had an anxiety attack.

In response to the union drive, JRS Hospitality hired Labor Information Services, the same consulting firm used by Amazon to combat union organizing. According to Department of Labor records, LIS was hired to hold meetings with workers to “discuss the realities of signing authorization cards.” In September, the union filed two National Labor Relations Board complaints accusing JRS of interrogating, threatening and disciplining workers who are engaged in union activities — a violation of federal law.


Despite the resistance from management, nonunion workers like Guerrero and Zúñiga are hopeful about the future and take comfort in knowing that the union — including union members who work throughout Paris Las Vegas — has their back.

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