The Trump Workers Voting Against the Boss
LAS VEGAS (CNN) — Celia Vargas fled civil war-torn El Salvador and crossed the Mexican border into the United States in the back of a truck in 1981.
For years she lived in the country illegally, before President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law in 1986 that gave Vargas and millions more like her amnesty.
Today, she works for Donald Trump at his hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. But she’s not voting for him.
Trump’s immigration proposals and his rhetoric on undocumented people upsets Vargas. Many of the people he derides clean his hotel rooms, she says, gesturing towards herself.
“I will vote for Ms Hillary Clinton, and my family, too,” says Vargas, who was 23 when she came to the United States illegally. “She fights for keeping families together, she fights for the younger people, for Dreamers.”
Workers want change at Trump Vegas
Vargas, a guest room attendant, is one of more than 200 workers at the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas that voted late last year to unionize. Trump owns the hotel the hotel with Phil Ruffin.
Appeals by the hotel to the National Labor Relations Board contesting the certification of the union failed, but the hotel has yet to meet union representatives to negotiate.
Speaking at the Republican National Convention in July, Ruffin said Trump’s “handshake is better than any contract you will ever write.”
On Wednesday night, the presidential candidates will be in Las Vegas for their third and final debate.
Jeffrey Wise, who has worked in Vegas for 30 years, is among the workers calling on Trump and Ruffin to come to the negotiating table.
Wise works two jobs, one as a food server at the Trump hotel, and another similar role at a hotel with union negotiated contracts elsewhere on the strip. He says his other job pays $3 more per hour and includes benefits he doesn’t receive at the Trump property.
“We hear the phrase often and again and again about let’s ‘Make America Great Again,’ let’s make America what it was supposed to be,” Wise tells CNN, “if you want to start making America great, start from the bottom with the workers.”
Neither the Trump campaign nor the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas were immediately able to comment, but when asked last month by the Las Vegas Sun on unionization at the hotel, Donald Trump Jr., citing his father’s history of construction projects in New York said, “I don’t think anyone in the history of politics has done more with union labor than Donald Trump.”
Trump Jr. said he was not aware of any plans for negotiations to commence but said: “If you look at our history you’d see a history and decades of negotiation. So we’ll see what happens. Everything is a case-by-case basis.”
Taking on the boss
The Culinary Workers Union represents more than 50,000 workers in Nevada, and the Trump hotel is one of the very few on the Las Vegas Strip that does not have union-negotiated contracts for its workers. Just last month the union launched a campaign calling on supporters to boycott all Trump businesses, a bid to bring hotel management to the negotiating table.
Vargas, Wise, and others are not afraid to take on their boss.
Meeting at the union’s headquarters, in a quieter part of town two miles off the Vegas Strip, they’re still within view of the 64-story hotel with the trademark Trump name emblazoned across its top.
“That’s what the basis of being an American is all about, it’s the right to speak up when you see something unjust and not done fairly and do something about it,” Wise says of his campaign.
Voting the other way
Carmen Llarul, like Vargas, is another Trump worker who isn’t voting for the Republican candidate; instead she says she’ll cast her ballot for Clinton.
Llarul came to the US from Argentina in the early 1980s. She proudly shows a text message on her phone from her granddaughter Olivia, 20, who is on her first deployment with the US Air Force in Japan.
Carmen’s daughter also served in the armed forces and says Trump doesn’t appreciate how much immigrants and their families contribute to American society.
“These hands clean the rooms every single day for Mr Trump so he can be rich,” she says pointing to her hands. “He should listen to us, the immigrants, the workers, because we have a lot to teach him.”