Unions, casinos continue negotiations as deadline passes

Updated June 1, 2018 - 12:04 am

Negotiations between Las Vegas hospitality unions and casino operators continued into the night Thursday with little expectation that a deal would be reached by a midnight deadline, but also little chance of an imminent strike.

The unions plan to open a strike headquarters Friday after contracts for 50,000 employees expire at midnight Thursday.

It would be the latest move by the labor groups to ratchet up pressure on Strip and downtown casino operators amid monthslong talks over a new five-year contract. The unions earlier this month called the first citywide strike vote in 16 years.

The headquarters does not imply the unions will strike.

“We are focused on negotiations,” union spokeswoman Bethany Khan said. “We have not set a strike date yet.”

Union leaders continued their talks Thursday with Caesars Entertainment Corp., the second-largest Las Vegas casino operator by employment.

“Caesars Entertainment continues to meet with the Culinary union to finalize a new 5-year contract. We are confident that we will achieve a tentative agreement without a work stoppage,” spokesman Rich Broome said.

Caesars and MGM Resorts International operate 18 of the 34 resorts that would be impacted if housekeepers, porters, bartenders, waitresses and other laborers walk off the job.

An MGM spokeswoman said Thursday the company is still confident that it will be able to “resolve the outstanding contract issues and come to an agreement that works for all sides.”

The casino operators have repeatedly said over the past two weeks that they expect to reach an agreement with the unions and avoid a strike that could leave guests struggling to get clean sheets and order food.

Wage increases

Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 are seeking an average annual increase of 4 percent over the next five years in workers’ wages and benefits. That equates to an increase of roughly $1 per hour for union employees.

MGM Resorts and Caesars are offering an average annual increase of about 2.7 percent, according to the unions. Consumer price inflation is forecast to grow at an annual average rate of 2 percent in the coming years.

The unions and casino operators have had a testy relationship over the decades, but managed to avoid a citywide strike all but once. In 1984 workers picketed for 67 days in a strike marred by violence.

The unions and casino operators failed to reach a new five-year contract by the June 1 deadline in 2013 as well.

The two sides continued to negotiate for months after workers’ contracts expired. MGM reached an agreement with the unions by November with the rest of the operators following suit by June 2014.

The 2013 contract awarded workers an annual average increase in wages and benefits of 2.2 percent.

Headquarters

The unions will open a strike headquarters Friday at 10 a.m. and begin making picket signs, said Khan. The union has already begun signing members up for strike shifts.

A strike could impact business visitors coming to Las Vegas for conventions. The city is expecting about 120,000 people to attend conventions and meetings over the next two weeks. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority expressed optimism a deal would be worked out before a strike is called.

“Our resort partners and their union representation have traditionally maintained a good working relationship,” an LVCVA spokesperson said. “We continue to monitor the situation.”

The hospitality unions may not be able to rely on the solidarity of other large unions in the city.

When asked if his union would honor a potential strike by the hospitality unions, Tommy White, business manager and secretary-treasurer of Laborers Local 872, said Thursday his crews would continue to work on the $1.8 billion Las Vegas football stadium project without interruption.

Contact Todd Prince at 702-383-0386 or tprince@reviewjournal.com. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter. Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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