The drive to organize

High Country News   ·   Link to Article

In solidarity we will survive." The slogan is splashed in red paint across the white and blue cement walls of the Culinary Workers' Union hall, an unimpressive building in the older part of town.

Inside, I meet with Geoconda "Geo" Arguello-Kline, a small woman with dark skin and smiling eyes who is one of 100 organizers for the union.

"Organizing is the life for the union," she says. "It is the only way the union will stay strong and keep growing. Even hotels that already have union contracts need organizing on the inside to teach workers their rights."

Arguello-Kline knows a lot about fighting for her rights. Born in Nicaragua, she and her family moved to Miami in 1979. Twelve people lived in a two-room apartment.

"When I lived in Miami, I made $5.50 an hour as a maid. I had no health insurance and no language skills to find a better job," she says. Hearing of the good wages and benefits in Las Vegas, Arguello-Kline followed her brother West.

"The workers have a voice here; we build this high standard of living together. It is completely different."

Arguello-Kline worked as a maid at the Frontier for seven years, but when the union went on strike from 1991-1998, she wasn't daunted.

"I fought for what I believe during those six and a half years; I believe I need that health benefit for my family." She now works full time for the culinary union, which means that, in addition to recruiting, she teaches workers why a union makes sense.

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