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Workshops help soon-to-be displaced Mirage employees find new jobs before casino’s closure

The property will close for three years to transform into the Hard Rock. Agencies are working on ways to smooth the transition for hundreds of employees.
Kelsea Frobes
Kelsea Frobes

As The Mirage prepares to close by mid-July, retire its famous volcano and begin a three-year transformation into the Hard Rock casino — complete with a 700-foot guitar-shaped hotel tower — the resort’s nearly 3,400 employees will be forced to look for new jobs.

That includes people such as Kimberly Ireland, a single mother of four and member of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, who said that during her employment as a bell dispatcher with The Mirage she had developed several long-term friendships with colleagues.

“For me, a lot of people I consider my Mirage family will be missed,” she said. “Even though I knew that this day would come, when it actually came, it was a moment of, ‘This is it.’” 

But the soon-to-be jobless workers won’t be without help. In partnership with The Mirage, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) will be offering the displaced workers its Rapid Response program, which provides workshops, job fairs, informational sessions and resources to assist these employees in finding new jobs.

“Our goal is to make sure The Mirage staff feel supported during this time,” DETR Director Christopher Sewell told The Nevada Independent

John Parel, DETR’s deputy administrator for workforce, said that another aspect of the Rapid Response program is to offer a workshop for employees who don’t find a new job through the process and help them  apply for unemployment benefits.

Parel said the employer as well as employees benefit from the process. Companies make contributions into the fund that pays out unemployment benefits, and by finding work for their employees, the contributions they will need to make to the fund stay low. Parel added that the affected employees may even be able to find better work and make a career change. 

Assistance doesn’t stop at training, Parel said. DETR follows up with those they assisted in order to check in with them and get feedback about the process. 

Rapid Response programs, which are called for through a nearly 40-year-old law known as the WARN Act that focuses on retraining displaced workers, are funded at the federal and state levels. Parel says that if an employer wanted to host additional training or events such as a job fair, it would have to be self-funded.

“Nine times out of 10 we will get everybody including management [to participate in these programs],” Parel says.

The Hard Rock expects to pay out $80 million in severance to the laid-off workers. Late last year, the Culinary Union negotiated to ensure workers who lose their job because of the casino’s transformation have the option to choose between receiving a $2,000 bonus for each year of service at The Mirage and six months of pay and health benefits, or a lesser amount while maintaining seniority rights for the duration of the property’s closure. 

Maintaining seniority rights allows employees to be called back to work when the Hard Rock reopens and keep their status, which is important for employment benefits such as choosing their preferred shift. 

Unionized workers who choose to retain their recall rights will have access to free job training and first access to available job openings when the property reopens. 

Bethany Khan, a Culinary Union spokeswoman, said that although recall rights are available to employees for as long as 36 months after the date of closure, the union will likely work with Hard Rock to bring back as many employees to the property who want to return.

Additionally, the Culinary Union will host multiple Rapid Response events for employees of The Mirage.

Ireland said The Mirage, along with the Culinary Union, have helped provide her with stable living circumstances.

“Even though the closing of The Mirage hotel is happening, I still have certain language and protections [in our contract] that will allow me to be able to take care of myself financially,” she said. 

As for Ireland’s co-workers, she said the general attitude toward the closure varies. 

“It's mixed emotions with some of my co-workers because they were looking to retire at a certain age and now they may have to think about retirement a little bit sooner.”

Although the closure of The Mirage may be bittersweet, Ireland says she has “no complaints” about the Rapid Response program hosted by DETR and The Mirage. 

“I really appreciate the support and the resources because it's been most helpful for myself and my fellow co-workers,” she said.

Ireland said returning to the Hard Rock is “definitely an option.” 

“I'm excited to see what the Hard Rock has to offer and what they intend to bring to our city. If I can be a part of that new addition to our city Strip, I'm looking forward to it,” she said. 


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