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Unions, including Culinary, reach deal to organize Venetian, Palazzo workers

Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
Pedestrians walk near the Venetian and Palazzo resorts on the Las Vegas Strip on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent).

A decades-long standoff between Las Vegas’ largest unions and the Venetian and Palazzo ended Tuesday with the announcement that operators of the Strip properties would stand aside and allow the labor groups to organize the properties’ non-gaming workforce.

The joint announcement from Culinary Workers Local 226, Bartenders Local 165, Operating Engineers Local 501 and Teamsters Local 986, comes some 16 months after the Las Vegas Corp. sold the two resorts and the Venetian Expo for $6.25 billion to private equity firm Apollo Global Management and real estate investment trust VICI Properties. Apollo manages the two resorts under an agreement with VICI, the properties’ landlord.  

The two resorts are the last operating on the Strip without a union agreement with the Culinary, the state’s largest labor organization.

A source, however, said the Culinary has quietly represented an undisclosed number of workers in Venetian’s convention center. In 2017, less than 100 security officers ratified a labor agreement at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, becoming the first union to publicly organize at a Las Vegas Sands property. The company sold the resort in 2019.

The Venetian opened in 1999 followed by the Palazzo in 2007 and Las Vegas Sands, then controlled by the late billionaire and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, fought off union organizing attempts over the years by offering competitive wages and benefits to its workforce.

But with the ownership change more than a year after Adelson died at age 87 from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the unions saw an opening because of their history with Apollo.

“Our unions have historically worked with Apollo Global Management in Las Vegas and in other major metropolitan areas across the United States and we are hopeful as thousands of workers, employed at the only two non-union casinos remaining on the Las Vegas Strip, will have the opportunity to choose whether to unionize while management remains neutral and respects their choice,” the labor groups said in an unsigned statement.

Combined, the Venetian and Palazzo have some 8,000 gaming and nongaming workers covering 7,100 hotel rooms, 225,000 square feet of casino space and 2.3 million square feet of convention space. It’s unclear how many members of the workforce could be covered by the union agreements.

“The Venetian Resort Las Vegas has a long history of respecting our team members and putting their needs and interests at the center of our decision-making process,” a spokesperson for the Venetian said. “To this end, we have recently entered into neutrality agreements with The Joint Board (Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165), Teamsters Local 986, and International Operating Engineers Union Local 501. Signing these neutrality agreements allows team members to freely choose whether or not to be represented by a union without interference or opposition.”.

The neutrality agreement means Venetian has decided not to oppose the union's efforts to organize workers, which allows labor representatives to be at the properties and discuss reasons to join the unions. A National Labor Relations Board election is not required but a third party would oversee the card-counting process to ensure a majority vote is reached. If approved, contract negotiations would then take place.

Union representatives have already been discussing the organizing efforts with Venetian and Palazzo employees.

“We are respectfully listening to what is important to workers, what they would like to preserve, and if there are improvements they would like to see implemented,” according to the statement.

Gladys Henderson, a floor attendant at the Venetian for 15 years, said she was happy the management of the casinos is remaining neutral during the card check process.  

“My coworkers and I are excited for what the future holds for us and are grateful to have this opportunity,” she said in a statement provided by the unions.

The effort at the Venetian and Palazzo comes as the Culinary and Bartenders have opened contract talks with Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts on new five-year agreements covering some 38,000 workers with the Strip’s three largest employers.

The collective bargaining agreements covering more than 40 gaming and non-gaming resorts in the Las Vegas area expired on June 1.

The unions did not declare June 1, the date the contracts formally expired, as a “strike deadline” because of the complexity of the talks. Contract extensions were reached with most Strip properties and any wage increases agreed to in a final contract will be retroactive.

Updated at 12:50 p.m. on 6/27/2023 with a statement from the Venetian.


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