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Tens of thousands of Strip workers could go on strike next week

Updated November 2, 2023 - 5:22 pm

Hospitality workers in Culinary Local 226 will go on strike at 5 a.m. Nov. 10 if a new five-year contract agreement is not reached, union leaders said Thursday.

The date — just six days before the city hosts the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix, when more than 100,000 visitors are projected to descend on the Strip — sets a formal deadline for workers and employers to make a deal.

“We’re striving to get this contract because it’s very important for the people who live in Las Vegas, the families that live in this town,” Paul Anthony, a food server at the Bellagio since it opened, told reporters in a virtual news conference. “It’s very important for working people and for all of Las Vegas.”

Contracts expired at MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts in September after months of extensions. The union held a strike authorization vote in which 95 percent of members supported a strike, if necessary. About 35,000 members are working under expired contracts and would be the first to go on strike if a deal is not reached, the union said.

Eighteen properties — excluding The Cosmopolitan, which came under MGM’s ownership in May 2022 — will have workers walk off the job if no deal is reached. Strike deadlines at other resort operators could still be called as well.

If a strike is called, the union will ask customers not to cross the picket line at resorts that could be at the center of the international stage during Formula One events.

“At the end of the day, we’ve been at this — we’re into our seventh month — and it’s time for these companies to sit down and negotiate,” secretary-treasurer Ted Pappageorge said. “If they’re not willing to do that, then we’re going to ask customers to take their money and spend elsewhere. We have a huge network and ability to communicate with workers across the country and we will do that.”

Culinary leaders said they are intensifying preparations for what they say will be the largest hospitality worker strike in U.S. history. The union is gathering materials to set up 45 different strike stations and multiple picket lines around casino resorts on the Strip continuing to sign workers up for strike pay and shifts on the strike line — all while urging companies to “agree to a fair contract now,” according to a Thursday statement.

“I don’t think companies should be surprised about this announcement,” Pappageorge said. “We’ve been very clear that this day would come.”

MGM and Wynn declined to comment. Caesars did not respond to a request for comment.

Culinary workers are expected to be paid at least $300 during the first week, then $400 a week for workers who picket 20 hours a week, according to a strike Q&A shared with workers last week. Pappageorge said the union has a “significant” strike fund, plus the support from its international union UNITE HERE and from the AFL-CIO.

Culinary members have been ramping up the public pressure on employers in recent weeks with an informational picket line and by blocking traffic on the center Strip.

Negotiators have met all the while and some progress was made on wage increases, the union and some operators previously said. But other major union concerns — like increased deployment of job-replacing technology, on-the-job safety, daily room cleanings and adjustments to the no-strike clause at nonunion restaurants — haven’t been addressed to the union’s satisfaction.

Pappageorge said their union contracts have language that give workers six months’ notice if their job will be replaced by technology, but some operators have tried to cut those protections. Negotiators are pushing for daily room cleaning and lower housekeeping quotas by attempting to reduce the places where a guest can opt out of cleanings. The union wants to leave it at a “do not disturb” sign on the door.

The union represents housekeepers, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, bartenders, laundry and kitchen workers.

The last time Culinary held a citywide walkout was in 1984, when 17,000 union members from 32 Strip resorts struck alongside several other unions, but a few property-specific strikes occurred in the decades after.

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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