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‘Horrible proposal’: Union responds to Virgin’s last offer in negotiations

Updated May 23, 2024 - 8:18 pm

An off-Strip casino employer negotiating with Culinary Local 226 members said it proposed a dollar an hour wage and benefits increase during the last two years of its contract, publicly sharing details of drawn-out negotiations that have continued months after competitors closed deals.

Virgin Hotels management said Wednesday that proposal makes up the wage portion of their “last, best and final offer” regarding the property’s five-year contract with Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165. It comes after about five months of negotiating with the joint union, and three months after all other unionized competitors in the region finalized their labor agreements.

Union members held a two-day strike beginning on May 10, alleging the property’s management has not offered wage increases in the next contract. The fourth offer, whose details were shared by the company on Thursday, includes continued contributions to Culinary-managed benefits funds but does not include wage increases during the first three years of the contract.

The hotel-casino said it has asked for more flexibility in wage increases compared to its peers because of its recent rebrand. Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Hotels and several investment companies acquired and rebranded the former Hard Rock Hotel to its current form in 2021.

“We have asked that those years be treated as ‘runway,’ giving Virgin Hotels Las Vegas time to stabilize its business,” according to a letter obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal from Chief Human Resources Officer Kate Hay to the union.

But Culinary leaders called the offer, and the company’s choice to release the details to media outlets, a “publicity stunt.” During a new conference Thursday, Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said it was a “horrible proposal.”

“When a company bargains in the press, it means they’re not serious,” Pappageorge said. “They’re literally the last one and I think they’re looking for special treatment. It’s inappropriate.”

Other Strip, off-Strip and downtown casinos ratified deals with its union members in the fall and winter. Those achieved a 10 percent wage increase in the first year and additional increases over the life of the contract that reach about 32 percent, according to the union. Pappageorge said the Strat, for comparison, agreed to wage and benefit increases that were between $1.50 and $1.70 per hour for the last two years.

Virgin’s offer letter also alleges that the union has not agreed to additional meeting dates, despite suggestions on their behalf. Pappageorge disputed that, saying they would not consider the proposed dates because they fall on lucrative days for workers.

Despite the company’s tone of a final offer, Pappageorge said he expects to continue bargaining. Bargaining units, made up of Virgin workers, first need to go over a proposal. Pappageorge said a strike is not planned at this time and the next negotiation meeting has not been scheduled.

Culinary represents about 700 of the roughly 1,700 workers at Virgin. They received wage increases in their last five-year contract that ended June 1.

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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