Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.
Bernice Thomas runs the maids' training school for the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas. A mother of eight, she moved there with her husband from Tallulah, Louisiana, 25 years ago. Bernice Thomas:
"We train 33 students every two weeks with a full class. We mess up the bed, put dust and makeup on the floor, lipstick messages on the mirror, McDonald's packages, beer bottles. It be really trashed. We train them how to make a bed nice, dust the entire room, don't miss a lick of nothing! Now, maids have to worry about needles, blood, all kinds of things. We show them how to use gloves, put that linen in a special bag. We also have a class where they can learn English.
"The training is free. They graduate, if they can work up to hotel standards. When they get that certificate the hotels usually will hire them. Sometimes they hire them right there at graduation. At the hotels, the maids clean 15, 16, even 18 rooms.
"It's a goal out there. But it's not easy. I've had them come in here in tears saying, "I can't do it." Ain't no sucha thing as you can't. You can. You have hard days, you get real disgusted. But the main thing is to do the best you can, keep a positive attitude and you will make it.
"That's what I teach the people here. I say, "Just think about how nice it's gonna be when you go out there and make that check. Think about that new car, the wardrobe. A maid job is a way to get your feet in the door, "cause they hire maids and kitchen workers but you can always work your way up." They'll get a job and come back and thank me for it, show me their new car. That makes me proud to feel that I done help somebody."
Excerpted from Inside the Glitter, by Kit Miller, a book of profiles and 86 photographs depicting the lives of casino workers at home and on the job. The book is 100 pages and costs $24.98. To order a copy, contact Great Basin Publishing, 6185 Franktown Road, Carson City, NV 89704 (775/882-0191), GBNews@aol.com.
Copyright © 2000 HCN and Kit Miller