UNLV Public History Program graduate students will unveil a new exhibit "Line in the Sand: The People, Power and Progress of the Culinary Union." The exhibition will run December 5 through April 1, on the first floor gallery at UNLV's Lied Library.
This dynamic exhibit explores the tenacious and determined history between the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 and the City of Las Vegas. Founded in 1935, the Culinary Union has more than 55,000 members and is one of the most recognizable labor organizations in the country.
Using objects and images on display for the first time, the exhibition showcases the stories of the men and women who have labored behind the neon lights in Downtown Las Vegas and on the world famous Las Vegas Strip as housekeepers, kitchen workers, cooks, food servers, porters, bartenders, and cocktail servers.
"We are pleased to have partnered with UNLV to present the casino workers' history of Las Vegas," said Geoconda Arguello Kline, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Union. "Culinary Union members have been fighting for working families and good jobs for nearly 80 years and this exhibit is a celebration of the people who helped build Las Vegas."
The exhibit includes banners, buttons, t-shirts, picket signs, photographs, personal memorabilia, and oral histories. "Line in the Sand" demonstrates the sometimes tense push-and-pull of organizing, worker/casino negotiations, and explores the interconnected development of the Culinary Union and the city.
"To fully understand Las Vegas history, we must look at the ways union activism influenced and was influenced by the exponential growth of the tourism industry," said Hannah Robinson, a UNLV student and the exhibit's curator.
Sample artifacts include a t-shirt designed for members who participated in the 1984 strike against 32 casinos that reads, "We struck, we stuck, scabs suck." The shirt is displayed next to photographs of the event that testify to union solidarity amid discord.
Graduate students in the public history program, under the direction of associate director Deirdre Clemente, researched, curated and wrote the exhibition as part of their coursework, The oral histories were supervised and coordinated by Claytee White, director of the UNLV Oral History Research Center. The partnership between UNLV and the Culinary Union for this two-year project and the responsibility of going through the Culinary Union's physical and digital archives was facilitated by Bethany Khan, director of digital strategy for the Culinary Union.
"The fruitful relationship between our excellent department of history and the University Libraries has allowed our students and faculty to document, preserve, and to analyze very significant aspects of the history of Las Vegas from multiple perspectives, many of which would be lost were it not for these wonderful collaborations with the community we serve," said Chris Hudgins, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
"Line in the Sand" is presented in collaboration with the Culinary Workers Union, the Bartenders Union, UNLV University Libraries, the UNLV College of Liberal Arts, the Nevada State Museum, and the Las Vegas News Bureau.
Learn more about UNLV's public history program.