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Caesars, Culinary avoid Strip strike with ‘historic’ tentative agreement

Updated November 8, 2023 - 9:53 pm

Hospitality workers in Culinary Local 226 have reached a tentative contract agreement at nine Las Vegas properties operated by Caesars Entertainment, union officials said on Wednesday, averting a strike of the company’s roughly 10,000 union members just before the area hosts the inaugural Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix.

The union, a local affiliate of Unite Here, and Caesars reached a tentative agreement on the five-year contract after 20 hours of negotiations, the union said, and before the strike deadline of 5 a.m. Friday. Members will vote to accept or reject the contract over the next 10 days.

“We’re very confident that they’ll accept this deal,” Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge told reporters. “It is historic in nature.”

The deal comes after about seven months of negotiations between the Culinary union and Caesars as well as between the union and MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts. Contracts were set to expire on June 1, but were extended to deal with the complexity of the contracts, the companies and the union previously said. But extensions ended in September and the union began to publicly call on companies to agree to a contract while taking steps toward a strike.

Negotiations continue between the union and MGM and Wynn.

“In this landmark agreement, our nearly 10,000 UniteHere Team Members will see meaningful wage increases that align with our past performance, along with continued opportunities for growth tied to our future plans to bring more union jobs to the Las Vegas Strip,” Caesars Entertainment officials said in a statement Wednesday. “Through this agreement, Caesars Entertainment will ensure that as we grow, our Team Members grow with us. We are proud of our decades-long relationship with UniteHere and our shared commitment to the hospitality workers who are the heart and soul of Las Vegas.”

Top union negotiators said they achieved “the largest wage increases ever negotiated” in the union’s history in the new contract, with significant increases in the first year, smaller increases in the following years and additional funding for the health and pension plans.

Pappageorge declined to specify the wage increases, citing ongoing negotiations with competitors. But he said the increases negotiated with Caesars for non-tipped and tipped workers are “nearly larger” than the wage increases for the entire previous five-year contract. The union said that increase was about $4.57 hourly between wages, health and pension benefits and the average pay, inclusive of wages and benefits, was about $26.

They also negotiated over improvements in workload reduction, on-the-job safety, strengthening protections from job-replacing technology and extended recall rights. The union said it achieved provisions that require rooms to be cleaned daily unless a guest opts out, a push they’ve called for since the Nevada Legislature rolled back a mandate this spring.

An agreement avoids workers walking off their jobs at Caesars’ properties right before the Grand Prix, running Nov. 16-18 and projected to bring more than 100,000 visitors to the market.

Other negotiations continue

Bargaining groups met Wednesday with representatives from MGM Resorts International to hash out a similar agreement. During the company’s third-quarter earnings call Wednesday, CEO Bill Hornbuckle said he believed a deal would be reached the same day.

“We know from listening to our employees that they are looking for a pay increase that combats inflation as well as reduce workloads among other concerns,” Hornbuckle told investors. “This deal when announced will do just that and will result in the largest pay increase in the history of our negotiations with the Culinary Union.”

Wynn Resorts and union negotiators are scheduled to meet on Thursday. Pappageorge said workers at MGM and Wynn could still strike if a deal is not reached.

David Edelblute, a Las Vegas-based attorney at Howard and Howard who has worked with gaming clients, said the strike deadline likely forced a faster resolution.

“It’s not really a surprise that Caesars was the first domino to fall and that it’s likely that MGM and Wynn in turn are going to reach similar, if not the same terms that Caesars already did with the Culinary Union,” Edelblute said. “These kinds of deadlines encourage parties to sit down at the negotiating table and iron out their differences.”

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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