Maria Landeros is a hard worker. For 23 years, she has made beds, vacuumed carpets and cleaned toilets as a housekeeper at the MGM Grand Las Vegas. For the last three and half months, she has dedicated her energies to a political purpose — preventing Republican Donald Trump from becoming president of the US.
A 56-year-old widowed mother of three who was born in Mexico and is now a US citizen, Ms Landeros took a leave of absence from her hotel job to serve as a full-time foot soldier in a massive voter registration drive organised by the most powerful union in the Nevada entertainment capital: the Culinary Workers Union Local 226.
The union — which represents 56,000 hospitality industry employees, 14,200 of them housekeepers such as Ms Landeros — won its battle. Despite trailing in some of the polls, Democrat Hillary Clinton carried the state, while union-backed Democratic candidates for the US Senate and House of Representatives also won.
But the national results meant that Ms Landeros and her colleagues had lost their war.
“I feel terrible,” says Ms Landeros, who estimated that she helped register hundreds of voters in the effort to stop Mr Trump. “I did everything I can do. I did my best. I gave 100 per cent. I gave everything I have.”
Local 226 is 56 per cent Latino and 55 per cent female and is also locked in a bitter dispute with Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas, which is owned by Mr Trump and his partner, Phil Ruffin. Only days ago, the National Labor Relations Board said the hotel had violated the law by refusing to negotiate with the union.
All that has made Local 226’s battle against Mr Trump intensely personal. Ms Landeros said she saw Mr Trump as “a racist” and “a hater” who represented a danger to minority communities such as her own because of his vows to deport millions of illegal immigrants and build a wall on the US-Mexican border.
Her anger was further fuelled by reports that Mr Trump had disparaged a Latina winner of his Miss Universe beauty pageant, Venezuela’s Alicia Machado, as “Miss Housekeeping”. Mrs Clinton mentioned the incident during her first debate with Mr Trump and it was clearly a talking point for the housekeepers of the culinary union.
“He doesn’t have respect,” Ms Landeros says. “I’m so proud to be a GRA — a guest room attendant. I raised my kids and didn’t have to ask the government for nothing.”
Perhaps the only consolation for Ms Landeros and her union colleagues was that the Latino community flexed its political muscles in Nevada. Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto won her race to become the first Hispanic woman in the US Senate.
Democrat Ruben Kihuen became the first Latino from Nevada to win election to the US House of Representatives. Mr Kihuen’s mother works as a housekeeper in the same hotel as Ms Landeros.
They do not see much of each other at the MGM because Blanca Kihuen works the night shift, while Ms Landeros cleans during the day.
But the latter spoke of Mr Kihuen, who was born in Mexico and came to the US as a child, with pride.
“I identify with him because he suffered the same things I suffered,” says Ms Landeros. “I came to the US [as a young woman] with no English and no job.”
Mr Kihuen made his heritage a key part of his campaign. Appearing at a culinary union rally the day before the election, he roused the crowd of several hundred organisers, most of them women, with an address in English and Spanish that put down Mr Trump and paid tribute to housekeepers like his mother.
“My mom has worked at the MGM for the last 23 years and she is the hardest working person I know,” Mr Kihuen says, recalling how she would come home with blisters on her hands from pushing vacuums and brooms and then prepare the next day’s lunch for her children. “She did it with a lot of dignity and a lot of honour.”
Ms Landeros will go back to work at the MGM on Saturday morning. Her colleague Blanca Kihuen’s son Ruben will take his oath of office in Washington in January.
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