Etgar 36

Day 15-Las Vegas-by Gabe Goldberg

Looking out of the hotel this morning, all that I could see was a single hotel and the desert. While not exactly what one expects when thinking of Las Vegas, it demonstrates the incredible feat of a city created in the middle of a desert by none other than a member of the tribe, Bugsy Siegel.
Today, we had two important meetings. The first took place at the Culinary Union 226, where we met with 2 representatives from the union: Ana and Yesenia. We split into two groups and took in separate tours of the campus, where men and women are trained to become part of the workforce in Las Vegas. The academy trains students for practically everything related to the hotel business, including housekeeper, bartender, and chef.

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As we walked through the campus, it was interesting to note that almost every single “student” was a minority. Many of those people do not hold American citizenship, so the union aids their members with financing and every aspect of obtaining citizenship. This shows that the union is not just interested in helping people find jobs. Echoing this is the union’s role in helping children. We learned that in the state of Nevada, 48 percent of children qualify for reduced prices for lunch at school, and once school is out many of these same children cannot afford a meal. This is where the union steps in, providing food to those in a position of need. My tour guide, Ana, explained how the union has improved working conditions for many employees, for example, the maids, who clean between thirteen and seventeen rooms per day, while earning $16.50 per hour, instead of the national minimum wage of $7.25. Part of the reason these maids are paid so well is due to how gruesome their job is. Many of these workers have to resort to pain medication to continue to perform their jobs efficiently. One part of the campus that stood out were real life models of hotel rooms from places like Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio. Hearing and seeing just how hard these people work made me cognizant of where I place my clothes and shoes in hotel rooms to make the lives of the maids that much easier.

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After the tour, both groups came together and Billy led a discussion concerning the pros and cons of labor unions. The pros included improving points such as working conditions and proper training for future employees. Conversely, many people, myself included, believe that unions have obtained too much power and cause inefficient practices which cause companies to go under and unemployment to rise. These arguments contributed to the conversation’s transformation into debate about the current system and the trickle-down ideas on economics which deal with how much Americans are taxed. This transitioned us into our conversation with Niger Innis, who represented the TEA Party.

In-between our meetings we had lunch at the legendary In N’ Out Burger, which made my mouth very, very happy.

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After a little free time, we met with Niger Innis, who, with a very interactive approach, educated us on the TEA Party, touching on some of its political ideologies and myths about the group. He explained that the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party is a political group that deals almost exclusively with fiscal issues. As the name implies, the TEA Party is fiscally conservative with an emphasis on small government, which is why the party is associated with the Republican Party, although they are often considered more extreme. The TEA movement started when big banks were bailed out in 2008 and has recently picked up steam as a major portion of the Republican Party. Taxed Enough Already stands for the party’s belief that taxes and government regulations stifle the economy by helping big business and inhibiting small business. In addition, it stands for the notion that the American people should have the opportunity to determine their own economic fate and should not be punished for having success. While taxes are partly meant to redistribute wealth, Niger argued that big business has the luxury of hiring accountants to find loopholes and has enough political power to influence laws, which keeps these businesses ahead of the competition. Since many small businesses cannot afford an accountant, taxes actually cause them more financial problems. While this made sense, the philosophy of the TEA Party appears to place a strong emphasis on the improvement of living for the middle class, however a great answer about how the lower class would fare was missing. One thing I found particularly fascinating about the TEA Party was that it does not have one figurehead or leader, which Niger considered both a strength and a weakness of the movement. Instead, many leaders exist at once, such as Sarah Palin and Marco Rubio, both of whom share the same economic philosophy, but differ in regard to foreign policy and social issues. Niger again emphasized that the difference in opinion is a strength of the party. However, I struggle to find strength in a party which is comprised of different thoughts concerning extremely important social issues such as gay marriage and the U.S.’ relationship with the state of Israel while only being concerned with U.S. economic stability in all facets of government. Having recently turned 18 and not exactly the most up to date with political matters, it was beneficial for me, and I believe most of us Etgarians, to become educated voters.

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We then had free time in the hotel, where we had the opportunity to swim, bowl, or just hang out and relax. It is important for us to remember that we are still in high school and a little bit of time to unwind in the summer is important. A highlight of free time for me was when Max Marcovitch bowled four strikes in a row, so I wanted to give a shout out to him in this space.

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Our day concluded with a trip to see the Blue Man Group, who play amazing beats on a variety of instruments while having fun engaging the audience. I know I enjoyed it, and I believe most of us, as a whole, had a great time together. When the show ended, we were able to take pictures with them, which was a lot of fun.

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Our stay in Vegas was, overall, a great one. See ya’ll in Cali!