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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson
 

Binion Employees Get Support

15 January 2004

LAS VEGAS -- While Binion's Horseshoe's now-jobless work force waits for word on the fate of their downtown hotel-casino, the Culinary union and the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation are joining to provide help and answers to workers.

Questions about who will operate the casino, when it will reopen and how many Binion's employees will be rehired if and when it reopens are among those that will remain unanswered until Harrah's Entertainment completes negotiations with Horseshoe owner Becky Binion Behnen.

But questions about Binion's paychecks, unemployment checks, health insurance coverage and job referrals can be answered, and Culinary Local 226 and the employment department have teamed up to minimize hardships suffered by the hotel's work force.

The Culinary is providing computer access to sign up for unemployment pay and job training programs.

The state agency recommends Horseshoe workers sign up for unemployment online because a seasonal spike in layoffs has made accessing the department's phone lines much more difficult.

The Web site is http://www.nvdetr.org, and agency spokeswoman Karren Rhodes said the sign-up process is instantaneous.

That's important, because the time period covered by unemployment checks doesn't begin until people apply, she said.

Horseshoe employees who haven't recently received unemployment compensation will likely be eligible for unemployment.

Checks usually take about two weeks to arrive after filing, she said.

The state agency estimates about 900 Horseshoe employees lost their jobs Friday when Binion's closed after U.S. marshals entered the property and seized about $1 million of the casino's cash, leaving the 52-year-old landmark without the bankroll to operate.

About 450 of those workers are maids, cooks and porters who are members of the Culinary. The union has agreed to act as a job search resource for all of the Horseshoe's employees, including the nonunion workers, Culinary Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor said Wednesday.

Taylor estimated 400 or more Horseshoe workers attended an informational meeting the union held for the workers at Culinary headquarters.

He said the workers were anxious about their futures and had many questions.

"They have no other place to turn," Taylor said. "These people were put in this position through no fault of their own."

Taylor told the workers what Harrah's executives told him Wednesday morning, he said.

Among the facts he spelled out were:

- The deal to buy the Horseshoe is not final.

- Harrah's intends to assess the property and decide its future after the deal is complete.

- If and when it applies to operate the Horseshoe, Harrah's wants the transition to be as fast as possible.

- Harrah's has no problem assuming the workers' union contract.

"The important thing is that the workers know they're not alone," Taylor said.

Besides training programs offered by Nevada Partners and the Culinary Training Academy, Taylor said the union hopes to provide as many people as it can with new jobs.

For example, the Culinary and Bartenders' union job dispatch office sent 54 bartenders to Mandalay Bay on Wednesday to work at a big event, he said.

Many of the bartenders were Horseshoe bartenders, he said. Taking interim jobs doesn't affect workers' ability to reclaim a Horseshoe job if and when it reopens, he added.

Culinary officials also explained to union workers that their union health care coverage remains in effect for four months.

Taylor said Horseshoe employees who have yet to receive their final paychecks and their layoff notices can pick them up today between 3 and 6 p.m. at the Horseshoe time office.

Harrah's will guarantee the paychecks, Taylor said.

Employees should turn in their uniforms then, and will be able to retrieve personal belongings from their employee lockers, he said.