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Culinary, Wynn Resorts announce tentative deal, avoiding strike on Strip

Updated November 10, 2023 - 4:44 pm

Hospitality workers in Culinary Local 226 have reached a tentative contract agreement at Strip properties operated by Wynn Resorts, union officials said on Friday, joining two other major employers in reaching a deal and averting what could have been the largest hospitality strike in U.S. history. 

About 35,000 union members at Wynn, MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment threatened to walk off the job by 5 a.m. Friday if there was no resolution on the five-year contract — less than a week before the area hosts the inaugural Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix. The international motorsport event runs from Nov. 16 to 18 and is projected to bring more than 100,000 daily visitors to the market.

But the strike deadline succeeded in putting pressure on the three largest Strip employers to reach a deal. MGM Resorts and Caesars reached their own tentative contract agreements with Culinary earlier this week, which are expected to have similar terms.

Wynn Resorts operates Wynn and Encore on the Strip and has about 5,000 union members.

“We strongly believe that only the most talented and empowered employees, working in an environment in which they feel valued and well compensated, can deliver our signature Wynn and Encore guest experiences,” a spokesperson for Wynn said in a statement early Friday. “Therefore, we are very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement with Culinary Workers Union Local 226 which fulfills our shared goal of providing outstanding benefits and overall compensation to our employees in a work environment that is second to none. Wynn has historically enjoyed a relationship with Unite Here that is based on mutual respect and a shared interest in doing the best we can for those most important to us – our employees. This year has been no exception.”

The agreements come after about seven months of negotiations. Most contracts were set to expire on June 1, but were extended to deal with the complexity of the contracts, both operators 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.

Top union negotiators said they were pushing for “the largest wage increases ever negotiated” in the union’s history in the new contract. They also negotiated over improvements in reducing workload, on-the-job safety, strengthening protections from job-replacing technology and extended recall rights.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Culinary-Secretary Treasurer Ted Pappageorge declined to specify the raises established in the deals but said it represents a 2.5-times increase over the last five-year contract. The average worker’s total compensation is about $26 hourly – including wages, benefits, pension and other fund contributions – and will rise to about $35 hourly by the end of the contract.

Workers will also receive retroactive back-pay for the last several months. The union estimates that will be about $3,000 for non-tipped employees and $1,500 for tipped employees at Caesars and MGM and $2,000 for non-tipped, $1,000 for tipped employees at Wynn.

“After this furious round of negotiations into the mornings all week long, we’ve had tremendous victories,” Pappageorge said.

Deanna Virgil, a uniform attendant at Wynn, said she was happy about achieving “the best we have ever gotten.”

She pointed out the protections from job-placing technology as her biggest point of pride. New provisions define a new technological change and how it could affect workers, then establish sufficient notification time ahead of the implementation. It also establishes training-related requirements for new technology.

“In uniform control, we have been affected by technology,” Virgil said. “As we know, it’s ever growing. They’re trying to replace workers with robots, automation. For this to be in the contract for the very first time, it’s so exciting.”

The three deals are largely seen as setting a standard for other Strip properties run by independent operators. The union said 24 other casino-resort companies on the Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas are still working under contract extensions. Culinary has said it could call other strike deadlines.

President Joe Biden applauded the union and companies for reaching a deal and averting a strike in a Friday statement.

“Congratulations to the Culinary and Bartenders Unions who worked together in good faith towards an agreement that gives all workers the quality of life they deserve,” Biden said in a statement. “Las Vegas has a long union history and workers have been critical to the city’s growth and success. All workers – including hospitality workers – should have good jobs with fair pay and benefits that give them the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.”

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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