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Culinary and Bartender Unions in Las Vegas Authorize Strike

Culinary and bartender unions overwhelming vote in favor of authorizing a strike on Las Vegas Strip casinos; negotiations continue while a strike deadline is not set

By Todd R. Berger

9.27.23 Culinary and Bartender Unions Authorize Las Vegas Strike
Members of the Culinary Local Workers Union 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 outside the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada | Courtesy of Culinary Local Workers Union 226

Members of the Culinary Local Workers Union 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 have voted 95% in favor and 5% against to authorize a citywide strike, after tens of thousands of hospitality workers packed the Thomas and Mack Center on campus at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in two sessions to cast their votes on September 26.

Now, the negotiating committee of the Culinary and Bartender unions is authorized to call for a strike at 22 casino resorts properties on the Las Vegas Strip owned by the area’s largest employers: MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment Corp., and Wynn/Encore Resorts. The Culinary Union, which is now authorized to call for a strike at any date or time, has not yet set a strike deadline and continues negotiating in good faith with all gaming companies.

The Culinary Union represents 60,000 hospitality workers in Nevada. Some 53,000 are based in Las Vegas and are in active negotiations with casino/hotel employers for a new five-year contract. As of September 15, 40,000 workers employed at 22 casino resorts among the three largest gaming employers in the state (MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn/Encore Resorts) are working under an expired contract and are at risk of a major labor dispute.

“Today, Culinary and Bartender unions members have sent the strongest message possible to the casino industry to settle a fair contract as soon as possible,” says Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “We have negotiations scheduled next week with MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn/Encore Resorts, and it’s up to the three largest employers in Las Vegas to step up and do the right thing. If these gaming companies don’t come to an agreement, the workers have spoken, and we will be ready to do whatever it takes—up to and including a strike. Workers brought every single one of these companies through the pandemic and into a great recovery, and workers deserve a fair share. Companies are doing extremely well, and we are demanding that workers aren’t left behind.”

“I voted yes to authorize a strike because I’m fighting for my family and for our future,” says Maria Sanchez, a guest room attendant at the Bellagio and Culinary Union member for three years. “The workload since the pandemic has been intense and when I get home, I’m so tired and I don’t have energy to take my two kids to the park or play with them. I feel sad like I’m just living to work, and it’s not right. I was thinking about getting a second job, but I’m already doing more than one job at work right now, and I believe that one job should be enough! I voted yes to win the best contract ever so that I can work one job and come home to spend time with my children.”

“I’m fighting to win the best contract ever with the best wage increases we’ve ever had, to protect our union benefits, and to make sure we have the workload reduction and technology language we need so that we aren’t left behind,” says Angelica Romero, a houseperson at the Encore Casino and Culinary Union member for 15 years. “I voted yes to authorize a strike because I am ready to do whatever it takes—include going on strike to win what we deserve.”

“I was at the Thomas and Mack [Center] today to have my voice heard,” says Roselyn Buie, a cook at the Flamingo and Culinary Union member for 37 years. “I was proud to vote yes to authorize a strike to protect my future. I’ve worked hard for decades to provide for my family, and I want to continue to protect my retirement and pension. If I have to go on strike to win the best contract ever, then I’m ready to do that in order to win for my family and have my fair share of what we deserve.”

Earlier in September, the Culinary and Bartender unions sent a formal letter to eight of the MGM Resorts International properties, each of the Caesars Entertainment Corp. properties, and Wynn/Encore to initiate a seven-day notice to end the contract extensions that were in place. Terminating the contract extension agreements means that 40,000 Culinary and Bartender unions members are working under an expired contract and that there is an increased risk of a potential major labor dispute in Las Vegas. Union contracts are only expired with eight of the MGM Resorts properties, each of the Caesars Entertainment properties, and Wynn/Encore Resorts, adding up to 22 casino resort properties on the Las Vegas Strip among those employers.

Terms and conditions of an expired collective bargaining agreement largely remain in effect, including wages, benefits, and job security protections, but the no-strike provisions are no longer in effect, which will set the stage for workers to go on strike after a successful strike authorization, and if the Culinary and Bartender unions and employers do not come to an agreement before a strike deadline. The Culinary Union has not yet set a strike deadline.

Potentially Affected Casinos

The Culinary and Bartender unions are negotiating a new five-year contract with the following casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip where contracts at 22 properties are expired:

  • MGM Resorts International: Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York-New York, and Park MGM
  • Caesars Entertainment Corp.: Caesars Forum, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah’s Horseshoe, Paris, Planet Hollywood, The Cromwell, and the Linq
  • Wynn/Encore Resorts

The Culinary and Bartender unions are also negotiating a new five-year contract with the following casino resorts that are still under a contract extension:

  • Las Vegas Strip: Circus Circus, Four Seasons, Hilton Grand Vacations, Mirage, Rio, Sahara Las Vegas, Strat, Treasure Island, Tropicana, Trump Hotel Las Vegas, Virgin Hotels, Waldorf Astoria, and Westgate
  • Downtown Las Vegas:Binion’s, Circa, Downtown Grand, El Cortez, Four Queens, Fremont, Golden Gate, Golden Nugget, Main Street, The D Casino, and Plaza

The Unions’ Negotiating Positions

In the 2023 negotiations, the Culinary and Bartender unions have proposed new five-year contract language to provide greater measure of security for workers including:

  • Winning the largest wage increases ever negotiated in the history of the Culinary Union
  • Reducing workload and steep housekeeping room quotas, mandating daily room cleaning, and establishing the right for guest room attendants to securely work in set areas
  • Providing the best on-the-job safety protections for all classifications, including safety committees, expanding the use of safety buttons to more workers, penalties if safety buttons don’t work, enforcing mandatory room checks for employee and public safety, and tracking sexual harassment, assault, and criminal behavior by customers
  • Strengthening existing technology protections to guarantee advanced notification when new technology is introduced that would impact jobs, require training for new jobs created by technology, health care and severance pay for workers who are laid off because of new technology, the right to privacy from tracking technology introduced by companies, consent in third-party data sharing workers have generated through their work, and the right to bargain over technology that tracks location of employees or messaging between workers
  • Extending recall rights so that workers have more job security and have the right to return to their jobs in the event of another pandemic or economic crisis
  • Making clear that the no-strike clause does not prevent the Culinary Union from taking action, including strikes, against nonunion restaurants on the casino property, and gives casino workers the right to respect picket lines

Updates on the effects of a potential strike can be found at vegastravelalert.org.

culinaryunion226.org

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