Next Union Strike on the Table Could Shut Down Las Vegas

Tens of thousands of casino, hotel workers vote to authorize a walkout
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 27, 2023 5:40 PM CDT
Next Union Strike on the Table: Sin City Casino, Hotel Workers
Culinary Union members rally ahead of a strike vote Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, on the UNLV campus in Las Vegas. Tens of thousands of hospitality workers who keep the iconic casinos and hotels of Sin City humming voted Tuesday to authorize a strike amid ongoing contract negotiations.   (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Tens of thousands of Las Vegas hospitality workers fighting for new union contracts voted Tuesday to authorize a strike that could impact more than three dozen casinos and hotels. As the AP reports, the Culinary Workers Union hasn't gone on strike in more than three decades. The union didn't immediately set a deadline for a walkout as it continues bargaining for better pay, benefits, and working conditions with the top casino employers on the Las Vegas Strip, including MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts.

The Culinary Union is Nevada's largest labor union, representing about 60,000 hospitality workers statewide. Contracts for 40,000 of those members recently expired. "We are the glue that keeps these hotels together, and we should be paid what we deserve," Deanna Virgil, a longtime employee at Wynn Las Vegas, said after casting her vote. Virgil was among 53,000 housekeepers, cocktail and food servers, porters, cooks, bartenders, and other hotel employees in Las Vegas eligible to participate in the vote. The union is scheduled to return to the bargaining table next week with MGM Resorts, Caesars, and Wynn Resorts.

In a statement Tuesday, MGM Resorts said it has a decades-long history of successfully bargaining with the union and believes that "both parties are committed to negotiating a contract that is good for everyone." Caesars did not respond to requests for comment, and Wynn Resorts had no comment. Virgil, who has worked in the hospitality sector for 38 years, said she is able to make do with her current salary and benefits because she lives with her adult daughter. "There are a lot of us who have two jobs," Virgil says, "but one job should be enough."

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Bethany Khan, the union's rep, said all members receive health insurance and currently earn about $26 hourly, including benefits. Khan declined to say how much the union is seeking in pay raises because "we do not negotiate in public," although the union has said it is asking for "the largest wage increases ever negotiated" in its history. In 1991, more than 500 workers went on strike at the now-shuttered Frontier hotel and casino in downtown Las Vegas. It became one of the longest strikes in US history, stretching more than six years. The union last voted to authorize a strike in 2018. Five-year contracts were reached soon after a majority of the participating 25,000 hospitality workers cast votes to walk off the job. (More labor strike stories.)

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