Casino cocktail waitresses want to give shoe rule the boot

RENO, Nev. - Casino cocktail waitresses fed up with aching feet because of high-heeled shoes told the gambling industry Monday what they think about having to wear toe-gnarling, bunion-causing footwear.

''Kiss My Foot.''

That's the theme of a statewide campaign kicked off by a coalition of workers' rights groups, who say being forced to wear high-heels is discriminatory and puts women's health in jeopardy.

''I don't wear high-heels. I hate high-heels,'' said Kricket Martinez, a Circus-Circus server who is coordinator of the campaign.

Circus-Circus requires cocktail waitresses to wear 1-inch heels, which is about the limit recommended by doctors, she said.

But she has worked other places where juggling drink trays that weigh up to 40 pounds while teetering on spiked heels was the norm.

''We want some respect, we want some dignity and we want them to kiss our feet,'' she said to cheers.

About 40 waitresses and supporters gathered on the downtown Riverwalk to begin the campaign, sponsored by the Alliance for Workers' Rights, Nevada Empowered Womens Project and others.

The demonstrators held red-and-white signs showing a pair of high heels in a slashed circle. The signs read, ''Hey Boss Kiss My Foot.''

They piled well-worn, spike-heeled shoes on a simulated fire. There was no flame, just puffs from a small smoke machine.

''My question is why do women have to suffer physical pain for the visual pleasure of men?'' asked Linda Kline, who has hauled cocktails for 20 years.

The coalition, which plans a Las Vegas rally next, released an informal survey showing most casinos impose height requirements on the heels of women's shoes, some as high as 3 inches.

''It's ridiculous in this day and age,'' said John Pettey, a foreign language professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. ''People should be able to wear whatever shoes they want.''

Pettey showed up wearing rubber sandals.

Most in the crowd sported similar comfy footwear - tennis shoes, Birkenstocks, hiking boots.

Not Diane Underwood. She wore black boots with a 2-inch heel while passing out coupons for a free magnetic massage.

But her elevated stance was by choice.

''Besides, I have magnets on, in my shoes.''

About 80 women, mostly from northern Nevada, returned the survey, said Tom Stoneburner, director of Alliance for Workers' Rights.

Health care professionals were surveyed also. Their opinion, according to the survey, is that high-heels contribute to medical problems ranging from corns and calluses to hammer toes, tendinitis, knee pain, sprained ankles and back problems.

Stoneburner said the group hopes the casino industry will abolish heel-height requirements. If not, it might seek legislation or new workplace safety regulations to make the industry toe the line.

Representatives of the Nevada Resort Association in Las Vegas said they think the anti-heel campaign is not all it's pumped up to be and note the vast majority of cocktail waitresses on the Las Vegas Strip are represented by the Culinary Union.

''I've been involved in negotiations since 1973,'' association lobbyist Bob Ostrovsky said. ''Quite frankly, I don't ever recall the union bringing forward a proposal to limit this shoe style.''


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