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Culinary contracts tracker: Strike averted as union settles with Downtown Grand

A weekend of negotiations ends with more than a dozen contract agreements, and union allowing Virgin more time.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyGaming
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Culinary Workers Union Local 226 said Sunday night it had averted a strike by reaching a contract agreement with Downtown Grand, the last unsigned downtown property, and deciding to give the off-Strip Virgin Hotels Las Vegas a few more weeks.

In a statement, Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said the union, along with the affiliated Bartenders Local 165 and the operators of Downtown Grand, tentatively agreed on a new five-year deal covering 200 workers.

“[The unions] have decided to give Virgin Hotel Las Vegas more time and we expect a resolution on a new contract in the coming weeks,” Pappageorge said.

A strike date had been set for Monday at 5 a.m.

Downtown Grand is operated by CIM Group and Fifth Street Gaming and JCH Hospitality owns Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

“These were tough negotiations and it took over 2 years of preparation, 10 months of negotiations, lots of hard work, committee meetings, sleepless nights, and worker-led organizing,” Pappageorge said.

When unions first announced an initial strike date of Feb. 2 nearly a month ago, there were 21 properties on the Strip and downtown covering about 7,700 hospitality workers still in contract talks.

Last week, the union extended the strike deadline to Monday and three days of contract negotiations along with informational picket lines Friday and Saturday resulted in new five-year union contracts for 12 Strip and downtown Las Vegas casinos. 

The unions said in a statement Saturday that negotiations were expected to continue with the two unsigned properties. Downtown Grand is operated by CIM Group and Fifth Street Gaming and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is owned by JCH Hospitality. 

On Sunday, the unions announced an agreement with the Golden Nugget Las Vegas covering nearly 1,200 workers. The resort is owned by Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta’s privately held Fertitta Enterprises. Fertitta is a cousin of brothers Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta, the majority stockholders in Red Rock Resorts.

On Saturday, the unions announced contract agreements for Main Street and the Fremont covering nearly 500 workers. The casinos are operated by Boyd Gaming and the company held contract talks with the unions in the past week. 

Late Friday, the unions announced a contract with a settlement covering more than 500 workers with Binion’s and Four Queens, which are owned by TLC Casino Enterprises.

Between Thursday night and Friday afternoon, the unions announced tentative deals with Circa Casino Resort, D Las Vegas and Golden Gate, which are owned by Derek Stevens and cover more than 780 workers; El Cortez, owned by IKE Gaming covering 200 workers; Sahara, owned by billionaire Alex Meruelo, covering 650 workers; and Rio Casino Resort, owned by Dreamscape Cos., covering 670 workers. 

The tentative agreements must still be approved by each property’s workforce.

The unions first announced the initial strike date on Jan. 8 when 21 properties on the Strip and downtown covering about 7,700 hospitality workers were still in contract negotiations. After the announcement, the unions reached a tentative agreement with the non-gaming Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas, part of the CityCenter complex. 

Friday’s initial strike date coincided with the nine-month anniversary of when the previous agreements expired. If a strike were to happen Monday, it would take place as Las Vegas begins to host festivities surrounding Super Bowl LVIII.

“There needs to be a deadline,” Pappageorge told The Nevada Independent in January.

The strike date came nearly three months after the unions and the “big three” Strip companies — MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Las Vegas — agreed to new five-year contracts in November that included 32 percent salary increases.

The contracts also included workload reductions for guest room attendants, the reinstatement of daily hotel room cleanings, increased safety protections for workers on the job and language covering the expanding use of technology and artificial intelligence and how workers can be retrained or receive financial benefits if their jobs are replaced.

Members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 conduct an informational picket in front of the Golden Nugget Las Vegas in downtown Las Vegas on Feb. 2, 2024. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Here are the agreements reached through Jan. 31.

Plaza becomes the first downtown resort with a contract agreement

The Plaza Hotel and Casino became the first downtown property to reach an agreement with the unions on a five-year contract covering 250 workers. Tamares Group owns the Plaza. 

The tentative settlement was announced Jan. 31 following an overnight negotiating session.

The union had planned to try to settle contracts with Strip properties before focusing on downtown. As of Wednesday three Strip resorts were still without a contract.

Both Ruffin-owned casinos have settled with the union

The Culinary reached a tentative contract agreement Jan. 30 with Treasure Island covering more than 1,000 workers. The property was the second of two Strip casinos owned by billionaire businessman Phil Ruffin to settle with the union.

A tentative agreement was reached on Jan. 26 with Circus Circus Las Vegas, covering nearly 700 employees.

The casinos held separate contract talks with the union.

Ruffin’s purchase of the Frontier Hotel Casino in 1998 ended the longest strike in U.S. history. The Culinary workers had been on the picket lines for six years, four months and 10 days. Ruffin sold the Frontier in 2007 and the property has since been demolished.  

Agreement reached with Hilton Grand Vacations

Hilton Grand Vacations, a non-gaming timeshare resort operated by the Hilton Corp., reached a tentative contract Jan. 24 with the unions, covering 500 workers. The property is on the north end of the Strip.

STRAT deal reached following informational picketing

Four days after being targeted by an informational picket line, operators of the STRAT Hotel, Casino & SkyPod reached an agreement on a tentative contract with the unions covering more than 700 workers. The STRAT is owned and operated by Golden Entertainment. The agreement was announced before midnight on Jan. 23.

The resort is on Las Vegas Boulevard in downtown Las Vegas but was treated as a Strip property by the Culinary. Golden markets the hotel casino as part of the Strip, even though the Gaming Control Board includes its monthly gaming numbers in the downtown reporting sector.

Westgate Las Vegas settles with Culinary

The Westgate Las Vegas reached a tentative settlement with the unions on Jan. 20, covering more than 1,000 workers. The 3,000-room resort is considered a Strip property given its location on Paradise Road one block east of the Strip and its proximity to the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Trump Las Vegas agreement reached

The Culinary said it reached a tentative settlement Jan. 18 with the non-gaming Trump Las Vegas Hotel that covers 350 hospitality workers. The agreement followed 16 hours of negotiations. 

The 1,282-room complex, a mix of hotel, condominium and timeshare units, is on the Strip, behind the former Frontier Hotel site and across from the Fashion Show Mall.

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