Standing outside the gleaming Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, called for two things: immigration reform and bargaining rights for workers.
“If we want our economy to grow, we need to treat our workers with dignity and respect, pay them better and respect their right to organize,” O’Malley said. He listed that as one of two things that he said GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump does not understand.
“Secondly, in every generation, new American immigrants have made our economy stronger and have made our economy better,” O’Malley said Wednesday in a news conference and rally of Trump hotel workers demanding union organizing rights.
While often treated as separate issues, for Latinos, work and immigration are very connected.
But Eric Trump, Trump’s son, dismissed O’Malley’s appearance in front of the hotel and his performance in the campaign.
“Martin O’Malley has less than 1 percent support, which is reflected in the fact that less than 10 people showed up at his press conference, where he unsuccessfully attempted to attack the clear presidential frontrunner, that being my father,” Eric Trump said.
Although their numbers in the workforce fell during the Great Recession of 2007-09, Latino immigrants still made up just slightly less than half of Hispanic workers in the U.S. in 2014, according to Pew Research Center.
In addition, Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. workforce and many of the young La new entrants to the workforce are Latino and the children of immigrants.
So when O’Malley and his rivals for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt. and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, spoke to the AFL-CIO on Wednesday, they were hitting on an issue deeply woven into the lives of Latinos.
“Our country does not work well unless all of us have the opportunity to work hard and thereby get ahead for our families,” O’Malley said.
Union membership is lower among Latinos than other racial and ethnic groups. Black workers had the highest union membership at 13.2 percent in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That was followed by 10.8 percent of white workers, 10.4 percent for Asian workers and 9.2 percent for Hispanics.
Many immigrants do not unionize because of concerns about its effect on their ability to remain in the U.S., even if they are legally present.
O’Malley tied collective bargaining and union membership to wealth gaps in the U.S. saying “70 percent of us are earning the same or less than we were 10 years ago.”
“We have so concentrated wealth in the hands of so few that it is literally taking opportunity out of the homes and the wallets and the neighborhoods of the many,” he said.
As of July 2015, 24.4 million Latinos over the age of 16 were employed, according to a National Council of La Raza's monthly job report. Sixty-six percent of the Latino population over age 16 is in the labor force.
In 2007, 56.1 percent of Latino workers were foreign born, but Pew Research Center noted last summer that for the first time in nearly two decades, immigrants were no longer the majority of Latino workers.
Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research, said that is a reflection of where Latino demographics are headed _ most growth in the number of Latino workers will come from U.S. born Latinos.
But at Trump International Hotel, many of the workers are immigrants, said Bethany Kahn, a spokeswoman for the Culinary Workers Union 226 in Las Vegas.
Culinary Workers Union 226 is the largest labor union and the largest immigrant organization in Nevada, she said.
It represents bartenders, housekeepers, porters, bellmen and women, food runners and servers, coffeeshop workers and cooks and others in the hospitality industry of the state. It is a backer of immigration reform.
Khan said 51 percent of the union’s members are Latino, although its 55,000 members include men and women from 167 countries who speak over 40 languages.
The Las Vegas strip, lined by casinos, hotels and restaurants, is 95 percent union, Khan said, and members of unions make up a majority of the city’s middle class.
Casino workers who are unionized don’t pay for health coverage and receive better pay, Khan said.
“Trump International Las Vegas employs 650 workers and as a family we’ve invested over $1.2 billion in an iconic building in Las Vegas” _ Eric Trump.
Workers at the Trump International Hotel are petitioning to form a union and asked Culinary Workers Union to help them do so. The union has filed two complaints with the National Labor Relations Board accusing the hotel’s management of harassment and intimidation tactics to prevent the organizing, Khan said.
Eric Trump, executive vice president of development and acquisition for the The Trump Organization, said the hotel’s employees “will tell you they absolutely love the company and they love working here.”
“Trump International Las Vegas employs 650 workers and as a family we’ve invested over $1.2 billion in an iconic building in Las Vegas,” Eric Trump said.
He dismissed the arguments that workers were not as well paid or treated and said this isn’t the first time the union has tried to organize the hotel’s workers.
“Time and time again, efforts to unionize the hotel have failed based on the fact that we have an unbelievable work environment,” he said, “an amazing team that has won the highest of accolades.”