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Tropicana, unions reach accord

Tropicana Entertainment’s top executive delivered on a promise to quickly resolve an impasse with the Culinary union by reaching a tentative agreement on a new contract Wednesday after less than five hours of meetings.

“We wanted to do something that made sense for our employees,” Tropicana Entertainment CEO Scott Butera said. “The things they were looking for were reasonable.”

The agreement, which covers 750 Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 workers, will be presented for worker ratification Friday.

Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor commended the union negotiators, as well as “Butera and the new team,” for getting the contract done.

“We are thrilled that after so long, the Tropicana’s negotiating committee was able to achieve its goal of protecting the Las Vegas dream,” Taylor said in a statement.

The workers have been operating under an extended contract since May 31, 2007.

Butera and union spokeswoman Pilar Weiss declined to disclose details of the agreement, but they said it was similar to other agreements reached at other Strip properties last year.

“We came forth with something that was very respectful of what (the employees) had done for us over the past few years,” Butera said. “There was good cooperative spirit. I’m very proud of the group.”

The union, which represents nearly 60,000 workers, reached five-year agreements in 2007 with gaming giants MGM Mirage, Harrah’s Entertainment and some individual properties that included annual raises and health care coverage that doesn’t require employee-paid premiums.

Butera declined to say if the company reversed its demand that the union’s benefit package be replaced, but he said the new proposal “was materially different and much more in line with what they would have expected. It was much more aligned with what our constituents in Las Vegas have done.”

He added that the workers understand the tough economic times the company and the general public are in and said they showed some leeway on some issues.

The meeting was the first involving Butera, who joined the company in March as president and was named chief executive officer in June.

Negotiations were put on hold May 5 when Tropicana Entertainment filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware after the company defaulted on nearly $2.7 billion worth of bonds.

The 41-year-old former Wall Street banker has been guiding the day-to-day operations and restructuring of the company while the role of embattled owner Bill Yung III has diminished over the past few months.

Yung, who operated the company as CEO and the company’s only director until June, is no longer involved in the company’s operations.

Butera said Wednesday’s agreement with the unions stands out among his accomplishments so far.

“Of all the things we’ve accomplished so far since I’ve been here, this is probably the one I’m most proud of and most happy with,” he said.

Today, Butera and other company executives are scheduled to appear before the Nevada Gaming Commission in Carson City for approval of new board members to take financial control of the company.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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