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Culinary walkout at Las Vegas hospital delayed

Updated May 8, 2023 - 8:29 pm

A planned strike by back-of-the-house workers at Valley Hospital Medical Center set for Tuesday was delayed at the last hour after the employer made “significant proposals” in the union contract negotiations, according to Culinary Local 226.

“In order to continue progress, the Culinary Union negotiating committee voted today to extend the strike by 10 days,” the Culinary wrote in a statement Monday night. “The Culinary Union urges Valley Hospital to do the right thing and settle a fair contract that protects worker’s health care and pension, and provides significant raises to deal with inflation and the rising cost of living.”

The majority of 90 crew members in the cleaning, kitchen, cashiers and stewards departments of the central Las Vegas hospital had voted to walk out of work, said Ted Pappageorge, the union’s secretary-treasurer.

A 24/7 strike — the first by Culinary members in two decades — will include daily 12-hour pickets at the hospital at 620 Shadow Lane. It will continue until “this company figures out how to reverse seven years of union busting,” Pappageorge said.

The last contract with the workers expired at the end of 2016. Since then, their salaries have been stagnant, and their union benefits threatened, the union said.

Pappageorge noted that the union agreed to pause negotiations through the pandemic emergency, but said that talks over the past year and pickets in past months haven’t moved the needle.

The strike delay, an apparent breakthrough, was achieved during a new round of negotiations Monday, “but it’s not enough,” the union said. The new strike deadline is set for May 19.

Share in prosperity

“They’ve worked through the pandemic,” Pappageorge said about the union members. “This hospital and system are enormously profitable and only became more so through the pandemic — but they have decided that workers are not going to share in that prosperity.”

A spokesperson for the hospital system said that Valley was preparing for a strike and was “committed to engaging in good faith negotiations and reaching a durable, modern contract reflective of our operations.”

“Our commitment is always to our patients and their families, our physicians, our first responders, our staff, and our community. We will continue to provide high quality care to all our patients regardless of a strike,” spokesperson Gretchen Papez wrote in a statement Monday.

Papez said day-to-day operations wouldn’t be hampered by a strike, and that staff will be on hand to feed patients and clean the hospital.

“During this time, we will also have extra security (including Las Vegas police) available throughout the hospital and the parking lots,” wrote Papez.

Strike warnings given

Clad in Culinary red, some of the unionized workers showed up to local government meetings last week to announce a strike was imminent.

The union alleges a union-busting scheme that has led to the firing of four union members, and the suspension of another representative.

Aside from the pickets, in which Culinary members from across the valley will participate, the union will be contacting Valley’s parent company’s shareholders and medical professionals to tell them the hospital treats its employees “second class,” Pappageorge said.

“I don’t think Valley hospitals wants to be known as second class, but that’s what they are right now,” he added.

The last Culinary strike occurred in 2002 at the Golden Gate, and the walkout lasted nine days before an agreement was reached. In March, a threatened strike against Sodexo Live!, the food service contractor for the Las Vegas Convention Center, was averted at the last minute.

The same thing happened in 2018 when 25,000 Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International Las Vegas workers voted to walk out of work.

“I think it’s a powerful tool that will affect this company’s reputation and standing in the community,” Pappageorge said. “And if this hospital cares even a little bit about their reputation in the community, they will do the right thing.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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