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Culinary union icon retires after 32 years

Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, has retired after 32 years of advocating for hospitality workers with the influential union.

Argüello-Kline, who has served as the secretary-treasurer of the union for the last decade, retired on Feb. 3, the union announced Friday.

“It is with so much love in my heart that I say it has been an honor of my life to represent Culinary Union members as an elected officer,” Argüello-Kline wrote in a letter to union members.

Argüello-Kline witnessed, and had an active role, in some of the biggest labor movements in recent Las Vegas history in her more than three decades with the union, including serving as a director in the campaign to unionize the Rio and as the an organizer in the labor strike against the New Frontier. The bitter strike between the casino and its workers would go on to be on of the longest in the nation’s history, lasting 6 years, 4 months and 10 days before it ended in 1998.

“Thinking back over my 32 years, there is truly nothing we didn’t try or do in the fight to protect workers, organize, expand benefits, demand our fair share as companies made record profits, elect political leaders who will represent workers, hold elected leaders accountable for their actions or inactions, and champion issues that are important to working families,” Argüello-Kline wrote.

She was born and raised in Managua, Nicaragua, and fled the country as a political refugee, arriving in Miami in 1979. She moved to Las Vegas four years later and started working as a guest room attendant at Fitzgeralds. She went on to join the Culinary Union in 1990 as an organizer.

In 2012, Argüello-Kline was promoted to the role of the union’s secretary-treasurer, becoming the first female and first Hispanic to lead the 60,000-member union that represents hospitality workers in Las Vegas, replacing D. Taylor who had been promoted himself to president of Culinary’s parent organization UNITE HERE.

Nevada State AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer Susie Martinez said that workers across Nevada “are better for having Geoconda Argüello-Kline’s service in our labor movement.”

“In Nevada, we often look at our Culinary union siblings for inspiration on what can be achieved. Just the past two years with the odds stacked against them fighting the pandemic they set national precedent on how to fight for worker safety and job protections under the leadership of Argüello-Kline,” Martinez said in a statement. “With 32 years of service and countless campaigns won, improving the lives of workers, Argüello-Kline’s impact stretches across our state.”

Ted Pappageorge, the previous union president, has taken over as the union’s new secretary-treasurer and Diana Valles has assumed her new role as president.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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