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Transcript of interview with James M. Bonaventure by Claytee D. White, September 9, 2014



James “Jim” Bonaventure worked from thirteen years of age, entering the hotel casino industry at sixteen. The weekend buffet at the Hacienda was not his cup of tea but he hit his stride at his second job, the Horseshoe, and stayed there for seven and half years. But it was the work at the Union Hall that he loved. He stayed there for over thirty years developing the grievance department into today’s state-of-the-art entity that negotiates between employees and employers. Bonaventure served on the front lines of major disputes including strikes. In the beginning, the Las Vegas Police Department sided with hotel casino owners but over the years as personnel changed, they became more egalitarian in the treatment of strikers. The 1984 strike was one of the most contentious and up to that time, the largest in the history of the union. More than 17,000 workers walked off their jobs to protest conditions at 32 Hotel Resorts. Arrests were plentiful. As soon as the leadership reached the picket line, they were immediately handcuffed. The bitterness did not end when the 9-month strike concluded. Bonaventure remembers Bally’s putting up $100,000 to fight grievances. Still, the union won 85% of the cases. Then several downtown casinos reared their collective heads. The Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas Club, and the Plaza Hotel Casino were dubbed the Downtown Three. Strained relationships turned into a lawsuit where the Culinary Union was paid $40,000. Then in 1989 Fitzgerald’s Hotel Casino’s actions called for a picket line. Bonaventure and other leaders agreed on a Noise Night. Union member brought pot and pans and banged on them. The night ended with a lawsuit filed by police officers claiming hearing loss. From the bottom of his heart, Bonaventure is a Union Man. It has been his life’s work. He is most proud of and humbled by his work as a trustee of the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas. Anyone can train there for most positions in the hotel industry and be hired into the industry upon graduation. And it’s the place when U.S. citizenship classes are given to all those ready to apply. During this 2014 interview Jim Bonaventure was thinking about retirement or at least slowing down. I would not be surprised if he’s still at his Culinary Workers Union Local 226 desk handling more grievances than anyone else in his department.
Digital ID

James M. Bonaventure oral history interview, 2014 September 09. OH-02156. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.

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i AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES M. BONAVENTURE An Oral History Conducted by Claytee D. White The Boyer Early Las Vegas Oral History Project The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevad