With the six-week World Series of Poker now underway, and the summer tourism season in full swing, Sin City can hardly afford a casino worker’s strike.
But when contracts for members of the local culinary union were allowed to lapse last week, the odds of Las Vegas’ first citywide strike in three decades increased in kind.
Culinary Workers Union Local 226 represents over 50,000 cooks, kitchen workers, bartenders, cocktail servers, housekeepers, bellmen, porters, and other casino staff throughout the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The union had threatened to stage massive strikes, with employees seeking expanded benefits and scheduled salary raises, but a pair of newly minted deals has headed off the potential crisis.
After negotiations that began in February, the city’s two major casino chains – Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International – came to terms with the culinary union on June 1 and June 2, respectively.
While the terms of a new five-year agreement have not been made public as of yet, union workers for Caesars Entertainment initially sought a 4.2 percent raise effective immediately, along with annual increases of 4.0 percent. The company countered with an offer of 2.8 percent over each of the next five years.
As for MGM Resorts, the culinary union sought an annual wage bump of 4.0 percent, which the company countered with a proposal of 2.7 percent.
Geoconda Argüello-Kline – who serves as Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union – issued a statement celebrating the agreements’ array of employee benefits:
“This contract includes the strongest and most comprehensive immigration, sexual harassment, and safety language in the history of any union in the United States.
We are proud to protect immigrants who have Temporary Protected Status and Dreamers, require regular multilingual training to ensure workers understand how to report sexual harassment from anyone (including customers) and with the company, are committed to aggressively pursue justice, and equip thousands of workers in the city with Wi-Fi-enabled safety buttons.
The historic new agreement also has the strongest economic package ever negotiated with the highest wage increases and healthcare and pension benefits for workers.”
Tom Jenkin – who serves as global president and lead negotiator for Caesars Entertainment – offered the following statement:
“We are pleased that all economic and personal security issues have been resolved with this new contract and that employees will continue to provide guests superior service and experiences.
This historic agreement ensures that our union team members will continue to be a crucial part of the Las Vegas dream.”
Of the 50,000 workers represented by the culinary union, 12,000 work at nine Caesars Entertainment properties:
Corey Sanders – who serves as chief operating officer for MGM Resorts International – commented on the deal in a public statement:
“We understand that the best service, hospitality, and entertainment are provided by people, especially by those who feel valued and respected.
We worked diligently to craft an agreement that demonstrates our long-term commitment to our employees and their families and allows our Company and the Unions to continue creating secure jobs and future opportunities in Las Vegas.”
More than 24,000 union workers are employed at 10 casinos under the MGM Resorts umbrella:
Even with these two deals minted, however, more than 14,000 culinary union members working at smaller casino chains are still taking steps toward an imminent strike.