Culinary Union to Wall Street: Prepare for strike

The Culinary Union has taken is its contract negotiations on the Strip to Wall Street.

The research arm of the labor organization that represents 44,000 workers whose contracts expired June 1, authored a two-page report that was sent to the investment community, saying the union is preparing for the first citywide strike by hotel workers since 1984.

The message from the union targeted primarily MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp., which operate some 20 Strip-area hotel-casinos, and Boyd Gaming Corp., which has two downtown casinos where contract expired.

The Culinary has been joined in the contract talks with Bartenders Local 165. The contracts cover noncasino departments, such as housekeeping, hotel operations and food and beverage.

“Since June, the unions have held several rounds of talks with the two major multiproperty operators, MGM and Caesars,” Culinary Local 226 research director Kin Liu wrote in the report. “Simmering tensions in negotiations now appear likely to boil over as the weather cools and the city enters its busy fall season.”

Casino company representatives were somewhat perplexed by the tone of the comments from the union.

MGM Resorts spokesman Gordon Absher said the talks with the union have be “substantive” and the company is confident a contract agreement will be reached.

“We feel this new leaflet does not accurately reflect our situation,” Absher said. “Joint subcommittees continue to meet and make progress toward a mutually beneficial conclusion. However, the Unions are negotiating with a number of companies simultaneously. Not all talks may be progressing as well as ours.”

Caesars Entertainment spokesman Gary Thompson said the company has continued “to meet regularly with the union to work toward resolution of outstanding issues. (We) believe we will be able to reach an agreement without a strike.”

Casino operators have signed extensions for expired contracts while talks take place. But union organizers have ratcheted up the rhetoric.

Earlier this year, the union launched a website — vegastravelalert.org — which warns Las Vegas visitors and convention planners of the ongoing contract negotiations and that “a labor dispute could affect your event.”

Liu, in his report, told investors 53 percent of MGM Resorts’ revenues and 34.6 percent of Caesars revenues came form their Strip casinos in the second quarter.

“As all the companies have shown no urgency toward working out a settlement, union member have started to sign up for ID cards in preparation for a strike,” Liu wrote.

Union members have marched on the Strip on several occasions, but the target of the pickets has been The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, where union and resort officials have been unable to come to agreement on a contract covering the resort’s non-casino workers.

Culinary members voted in May to approve a 60 percent increase in dues to create a fund that would support workers in the event of a strike.

Liu told the investment community there has been progress on some matters of the contracts, such as updating immigrant worker protection language and changing payroll systems. However, significant issues remain unresolved, he wrote.

“The union’s recent report was the first of what will be ongoing communications to gaming investors and Wall Street analysts,” Culinary spokeswoman Yvanna Cancela said. “Future updates will focus on a variety of issues including the challenges facing gaming companies in negotiations in Las Vegas.”

In the union’s report, Liu claims the company have not made proposals regarding wages and benefits. Caesars proposed an idea to tie wage increases to net revenue growth in Las Vegas. The unions have offered proposals for securing long-term healthcare, pension, and other benefits.

Boyd Gaming spokesman David Strow said the current talks have focused on Strip resorts.

“However, we expect to begin talks soon, and are optimistic we will once again reach an amicable resolution, as we have in the past,” Strow said.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.