Las Vegas tourism workers walk picket line for higher wages

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority union workers say their benefits would take a wrong-way U-turn under proposed contract offers from LVCVA management.

R.J. Liepins, vice president of supervisory employees with the Service Employees International Union, Local 1107, said employees would be asked to pay a portion of their healthcare benefits under a five-year collective bargaining agreement under consideration.

Workers call them “takeaways,” and in a demonstration Tuesday in front of the offices of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, about 100 sign-carrying pickets demanded an end to them.

Liepins said the group chose to demonstrate in front of the Review-Journal offices because they appreciate the scrutiny LVCVA executives have received in a series of investigative stories about the agency’s history of violating its own expense policies with lavish spending on high-end entertainment, gifts for employees and first-class trips overseas for board members.

Liepins said his health insurance has been fully paid for by the tax-funded organization in the 16 years he has worked for the LVCVA. He currently works as a security guard at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Workers also are seeking 2-3 percent pay increases in the first three years of the five-year deal with negotiable increases in the fourth and fifth years.

LVCVA custodial and service employee pay starts at $13 an hour and maxes out at $21 after 10 years. Security officers start at around $18 and max out at $30 after 10 years.

The current contract has included gradual pay raises over the five-year term totaling 13 percent. Of that, 2 percent was paid through the Public Employees Retirement System of Nevada.

Demonstrators, most wearing purple SEIU shirts and some with megaphones, marched near the Bonanza Road entrance of the newspaper shouting union slogans, garnering honks of support from passing motorists.

Demonstrators carried signs reading, “Keep our medical the same,” “No takeaways” and “Pork 4 executives, peanuts 4 workers.”

Representatives of the union say they’ve negotiated for a new five-year contract with LVCVA management since December. The union’s current contract expires June 30.

A collective bargaining session was scheduled for Tuesday, and the LVCVA indicated it is looking forward to reaching a deal.

“For the last seven months, we have been in negotiations with SEIU representatives on a new multiyear contract,” spokeswoman Jacqueline Peterson said in an emailed statement.

“Some of our employees, who are also union members, are exercising their First Amendment right by picketing today,” she said. “We are committed to continue to negotiate in good faith and we are hopeful that together we will bring this to a close with a contract by the end of the month.”

As public employees, the LVCVA union workers are forbidden from striking and can’t picket tourism centers, including the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Strip.

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