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Wynn to deal with dealers

One day after a vast majority of its casino dealing force cast ballots in favor of union representation, Wynn Las Vegas executives seemed resigned to negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the New York-based labor organization that will speak for the workers.

The National Labor Relations Board has until next week to certify the results of the weekend election at Wynn Las Vegas, where dealers, in a vote of 444-149, asked to be represented by the Transport Workers Union of America.

Gregory Kamer, a Las Vegas-based labor attorney who represents Wynn Las Vegas, said Monday nothing has come to the attention of Wynn management that would cause the casino operator to file an objection to the election results with the NLRB. Wynn executives referred all calls on the union vote to Kamer.

“Once the (NLRB) certifies the election, we’ll look at our calendars and schedule a negotiating session,” Kamer said.

Frank McCann Jr., who directed the organizing drive for the Transport Workers, said Sunday the property’s roughly 700 dealers expect to see the casino eliminate the tip-pooling program that led to the labor unrest and subsequent union vote. In addition, McCann said, dealers want to have the right to divide their own tips and want job security initiatives.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to sit down and negotiate an agreement in good faith,” McCann said. “That’s what the workers intend for us to do.”

Wynn Las Vegas has just one other union contract, a lengthy agreement with Culinary Local 226 that covers about 4,000 of the resort’s estimated 9,000-person work force.

At the crux of the union vote is Wynn’s decision to change how the casino splits tips among its dealers.

Wynn executives added certain managers and casino supervisors to the list of those who qualify to share in the casino’s often-times lucrative tip pool on Sept. 1. Wynn dealers said that before the tip pooling program was started, they could earn $100,000 or more annually and the change was costing them as much as $20,000 a year.

Wynn Las Vegas management said it started the policy to correct a pay disparity that had dealers earning more than their supervisors. Critics argued Wynn Las Vegas should have raised managers’ pay, not broadened the tip pool.

The tip-pooling program has not found its way into other Strip casinos.

MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni e-mailed a message to several company executives last week that said similar tip pooling changes would not be used in any of the gaming operator’s 10 Strip resorts. A copy of the e-mail was obtained by Wynn dealers and posted in their break room.

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman e-mailed Lanni’s statement to the Review-Journal.

“While we have stated as much publicly and been quoted in press reports, I want to make the position of MGM Mirage on this topic clear and unequivocal,” Lanni said. “Dealer tips are their income. The money they earn belongs to them. Our company will not implement any type of tip-sharing program at any of our resorts. This commitment extends to all our casinos and will be policy at CityCenter when it opens in 2009.”

Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn, in what amounted to an eleventh-hour appeal to sway the dealers from voting in favor of union representation, told employees in three different meetings that it had been a mistake to implement the tip-pooling change.

Wynn apologized to the dealers, saying the revamped tip pooling was a mistake. However, he stopped short of saying he would eliminate the program.

A tape of one of Wynn’s 20-minute talks was secretly recorded by a dealer and e-mailed to the media and other interested parties by pro-union dealer representatives. Las Vegas political commentator Jon Ralston placed a link to the recording on his personal blog.

Kamer didn’t dispute the unscripted comments made by Wynn.

“It was a private meeting for our employees and taping it was a violation of company policy,” Kamer said. “Steve said he made a mistake, but he didn’t want the dealers to make a mistake by voting for the union. He said, however, that he would respect however they voted.”

The tip-pooling program has spawned nine months of heated debate at the hotel, including complaints by dealers to the state labor commissioner, a lawsuit filed by two dealers in District Court, and sidewalk protests by dealers.

In addition, Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Henderson, proposed legislation in Carson City that would ban the tip-sharing agreement. Beers’ original bill died in committee but was revived after being amended into another bill and approved by the Assembly in late April.

A hearing on the bill in the state Senate was canceled last week.

Beers said Monday that despite the union vote, he doesn’t expect the bill to be revived.

“The only way if will come out of committee and onto the Senate floor is if the chairman (state Sen. Randall Townsend, R-Reno) and the majority leader (state Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno) get a call from Mr. Wynn and he tells them to bring it out,” Beers said. “Otherwise, with less than three weeks left in the session, I don’t think it will come out of the drawer.”

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