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Culinary sets resort industry strike vote for the end of September if contract talks stall

53,000 Strip and downtown union workers could vote in favor of the first citywide strike since 1984.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyGaming
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The leadership of the unions representing 53,000 Strip and downtown resort employees have called for a strike vote by the end of the month if ongoing contract talks don’t improve.

In a statement Thursday, the leadership of Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 said multiple rounds of negotiations with gaming industry leaders over a new five-year collective bargaining agreement have not produced a new contract.

Since April, the unions have been in talks with MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts, the Strip’s three largest employers which cover 38,000 non-gaming workers.

The contracts cover non-gaming employees, including guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, bartenders, laundry workers and kitchen workers at roughly 50 Strip and downtown properties.  

“It’s disappointing that we are still so far apart from the casinos after months of negotiations,” Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said in a statement. “Companies are generating record profits and we demand that workers aren’t left behind and have a fair share of that success.”

A strike vote is scheduled for Sept. 26 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

If a majority of workers vote in favor of a strike, the unions’ negotiating committees will be authorized to call for a walkout. Culinary leadership said the union has not yet set a strike deadline and plans to continue negotiating with the gaming companies. 

Culinary and Bartenders workers voted to authorize a citywide strike in 2018, but the unions eventually reached new five-year agreements before any walkouts.

The last major Culinary strike against the resort industry was in 1984 when 17,000 union workers walked off the job over contract disputes with 32 Strip resorts. The nine-month strike led to six casinos severing ties with the union.

The Culinary has over the years authorized strikes against individual properties, including the six-year, four-month and 10-day strike against the Frontier, which began in September 1991 and was the longest strike in U.S. history. 

In 2014, union members voted to authorize a strike against 10 downtown casinos, but the walkout was averted when new contracts were reached.

“We are negotiating for the best contract ever in the Culinary Union’s history to ensure that one job is enough,” Pappageorge said. “As companies reduce labor, there are less workers who have even more responsibilities and are doing more work instead of spending quality time with their families, and that has to change. Workers have built this industry and made it successful and that’s why we are demanding that workers share in that prosperity.”

Ted Pappageorge, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union, speaks during a Culinary Union members during a march on Las Vegas Boulevard on Thursday, June 29, 2023. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police estimated 3,500 workers participated in the push for a new contract. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The unions had a show of force at the end of June with a well-attended march down Las Vegas Boulevard.

Contracts between the properties and unions formally expired at the end of May, but the union said it reached an agreement on contract extensions with most Strip properties and that any wage increases agreed to in a final contract will be retroactive.

In addition to wage and benefit increases, the union is seeking numerous language changes that strengthen job security, workload reductions, technology protections, safety and bringing more workers back to work.

Even as contract talks were taking place, Culinary announced this summer it had reached neutrality agreements to organize workers at the Venetian and Palazzo and Sphere in Las Vegas.

“We are fighting to protect our good jobs with fair wages, job security, and great benefits so that workers and their families can thrive,” Pappageorge said.

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