LAS VEGAS (CN) — Hospitality unions representing more than 50,000 employees on the Strip and downtown overwhelmingly authorized a strike after holding a vote Tuesday.
Ninety-five percent of the rank-and-file voted in favor of a walkout, casting ballots at the Thomas & Mack Center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. The unions’ negotiating committee is authorized to call for a strike, but negotiations with gaming companies are ongoing. The culinary union has not set a strike deadline.
“[U]nion members have sent the strongest message possible to the casino industry to settle a fair contract as soon as possible," said Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in a statement late Tuesday evening.
Forty thousand hospitality employees have been working under expired contracts since Sept. 15, at 22 casino resorts owned by MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn/Encore Resorts.
Pappageorge said the unions have negotiations scheduled with each of those companies next week, 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," Papageorge said.
"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."
The unions are negotiating a new 5-year contract with casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip where contracts are expired:
- MGM Resorts International: Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York-New York and Park MGM
- Caesars Entertainment Corporation: Caesars Forum, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah’s Horseshoe, Paris, Planet Hollywood, The Cromwell and the Linq
- Wynn/Encore Resorts
Also on the table is a new 5-year contract with the 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
Union members asked the public to avoid the Strip, Tropicana Avenue and near Harry Reid International Airport on Tuesday as tens of thousands of workers showed up to cast their votes during two voting sessions.
Citywide contract negotiations have been spearheaded by Pappageorge and Diana Valles, the chapter president, while the Bartenders Union Local 165 is represented by Secretary-Treasurer Terry Greenwald and President Lana Loebig.
Multiple rounds of negotiations so far have not been fruitful, the unions say.
The Culinary Workers Union is the largest union in Nevada, and alongside the Bartenders Union, membership includes guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, bartenders, laundry and kitchen workers statewide.
In addition to higher pay the unions seek reduced housekeeping room quotas; better safety protections, including safety committees and expanding the use of safety buttons to more workers; stronger technology protections to guarantee advanced notification when new technology is introduced that would affect their jobs; training for new jobs created by technology; and extended recall rights, giving workers more job security and the right to return to their jobs in the event of another pandemic or economic crisis.
“Daily room cleaning is a safety and workload issue. When it’s been three or four days since I’ve been assigned to clean a room, I’m never sure what I’m going to find behind that door. I worry that there could be a body, a totally trashed room, or a stash of guns like what was in the hotel room on Oct. 1,” said Evangelina Alaniz, a guest room attendant at MGM’s Bellagio and Culinary Union member for 18 years.
“My job got so much harder since the pandemic, and I’m in constant pain at work. When I get home I feel guilty that I don’t have energy to spend time with my son, help him with his homework, or even cook dinner some nights," Alaniz continued.
"Often, I have to go to bed so I have enough strength to go to work the next day and serve the guests. Which is why we won't stop pushing until we win workload reductions, daily room cleaning, and the protections guest room attendants deserve and need.”
On the culinary union's website, Pappageorge detailed some of the modern challenges in the industry.
“As companies reduce labor, there are less workers who have even more responsibilities and are doing more work instead of spending quality time with their families, and that has to change," he wrote. "Workers have built this industry and made it successful and that’s why we are demanding that workers share in that prosperity. It’s disappointing that we are still so far apart from the casinos after months of negotiations with the largest three gaming companies in Las Vegas.”
The most recent Culinary Workers Union citywide strike vote was in 2018, when 25,000 workers voted to authorize a strike, but a walkout was averted.
Las Vegas is set to host a slate of massive events in the next half-year, including a Formula 1 race, National Finals Rodeo, Consumer Electronics Show and the Super Bowl.
For those concerned about the labor dispute having an impact on travel plans, the unions suggest checking www.VegasTravelAlert.org for updates.
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