Stalled contract negotiations could soon lead to a major strike by 50,000 bartenders, maids and food servers working at 20 hotel-casinos in Las Vegas, Nev. A strike of this size could shut down or significantly limit operations at some of the largest Las Vegas casinos, including the MGM Grand and Caesar’s Palace.
The Associated Press reports that the Culinary Union representing workers has been in contract talks with major casinos MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp since June, when workers’ contracts expired. Seeing little progress in talks for pay raises and improved benefits, union representatives issued a letter last week warning the casinos that a strike could be called soon.
“Union workers are preparing for a major labor dispute,” wrote Ken Liu, a spokesman for the Culinary Union’s parent organization Unite Here, in the letter. “As the companies have shown no urgency toward working out a settlement, union members have started to sign up for ID cards in preparation for a strike.”
The Culinary Union is part of Unite Here, a larger labor union that represents 251,000 hotel and gaming workers across North America. A strike of this size would have a significant impact in a city that relies upon tourist revenue and gambling dollars.
The Las Vegas Convention and Business Authority reported that nearly 40 million people visited the city last year, contributing to the $6.2 billion in gambling revenue generated from casinos along the Las Vegas strip.
MGM management believes that talks are progressing and an agreement will be reached soon. “MGM Resorts’ discussions with the Unions remain substantive, and we are confident we will arrive at a contract agreement shortly,” said MGM spokesman Gordon Absher.
Even workers with the protection of a union worry about job security and low pay. “We’ve went through some nerve-wracking times,” said union member Francis Alipo, a 47-year-old porter at the Monte Carlo during a protest earlier this year. “We just want to keep our benefits … and our 40-hour work week. It’s my passion because it benefits my family.”
If talks fall through, a strike by 50,000 bartenders, maids and food servers could put a significant damper on operations at some of Las Vegas’ largest casinos.
The Culinary Union has a history of fighting for better wages and benefits for its members. A look back at recent strikes shows that the union has been willing to call strikes when negotiations stall.
Vegas Inc. reports that in 1984, the Culinary launched one of the largest strikes in Las Vegas history. Roughly 17,000 workers went on strike at 32 Strip resorts demanding better contracts. Workers picketed steadily for nine months, leading six casinos to cut ties with the union.
The Culinary Workers later decided to sign contracts with 15 other properties, a move hailed by union officials as a major victory that resulted in pay raises and better benefits for employees.
Las Vegas also holds the distinction of having experienced one of the longest strikes in U.S. history. A labor strike in 1991 lasted six years, until officials from one hotel-casino invited most employees back to work with new contracts Jan. 1, 1998. Because of the unusual length of the strike, some had found employment at other locations.