Wynn dealers vote on union

Nearly 700 casino dealers at Wynn Las Vegas are expected to participate in a vote today and early Sunday morning to determine if the employees will be represented under a collective bargaining agreement by the Transport Workers Union of America.

The election culminates nearly nine months of heated debate at Wynn Las Vegas after the resort's management made a controversial change in how the casino pools and divides the tips earned by casino workers.

The policy led to complaints by dealers with the state labor commissioner, a lawsuit filed by two dealers in District Court, sidewalk protests by dealers and proposed legislation in Carson City that would ban the tip-sharing agreement.

In April, Wynn dealers overwhelmingly signed union authorization cards with the Transport Workers, a New York-based union that is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and represents 130,000 workers across the country in mass transportation, airlines, railroads, utilities, higher education and municipalities.

The union and Wynn executives have spent the past few weeks lobbying for or against joining the union in efforts to sway the dealers' votes.

Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn has met off and on with dealers to try to convince them to vote no on union representation.

"We all have made ourselves visible and available to talk with employees," Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal said Friday. "Our approach has been to make sure our employees are provided with all the information they need when they are faced with making this important decision."

Union representatives have also held numerous meetings with the employees.

"We are not only holding onto our support, but we are getting support from dealers who were undecided about the union," Wynn dealer Kanie Kastroll, a member of the union organizing committee, said in a statement released by the union. "When Wynn took our tip money, many people realized that our working conditions and tips were not protected."

In September, Wynn executives added certain managers and casino supervisors to the list of those who qualify to share in the casino's often-times lucrative tip pool. Wynn dealers said that before the tip pooling program was started, they could earn $100,000 or more annually.

Wynn Las Vegas management said it started the policy to correct a pay disparity that had dealers earning more than their supervisors. Critics argued Wynn Las Vegas should raise managers' pay, not broaden the tip pool. Dealers say the change is costing them as much as $20,000 per year.

Pascal said Friday that the policy hasn't changed.

Dealers have also mounted a heavy Internet campaign to encourage support for the organizing effort.

Nevada labor leaders have been relatively quiet on the organizing campaign. In April, Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada AFL-CIO, sent a letter to Wynn dealers expressing support for the formation of the union.

Frank McCann Jr., who is directing the organizing efforts for the Transport Workers Union, said dealers at other Strip resorts could be organized if the Wynn campaign is successful.

"Right now our focus is with the Wynn dealers, but a movement of all dealers has been growing stronger by the day," McCann said.

Wynn Las Vegas already has labor agreements in place with other unions, including a lengthy contract with Culinary Workers Local 226 that expires in 2015.

A vote for union representation by dealers at Wynn Las Vegas could mirror a movement in Atlantic City.

Dealers at four of the New Jersey gaming community's 11 casinos have voted to join the United Auto Workers. Dealers at Trump Marina were expected to vote on union authorization Friday while dealers at Bally's will vote on the matter June 2.

Even if Wynn dealers vote to approve union representation, it's uncertain if a contract can be reached.

In 2001, the Transport Workers Union moved to organize dealers at 13 casinos, winning elections at the Tropicana, Stratosphere and New Frontier, but was defeated at other properties.

The effort was eventually dropped without any agreements being reached.