Las Vegas Casino Worker’s Strike Action Imminent, Negotiations in Deadlock

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The Las Vegas Culinary Workers Local 226 has set a deadline: by November 10 at 5 a.m., either a new contract is agreed upon, or approximately 60,000 union workers will initiate what could be the largest hospitality worker strike in U.S. history.

The stakes are also at a high point right now, with the famous Nevada casino venues of the Las Vegas Strip almost ready for the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix race weekend from November 16 to 19. The race is expected to bring 100,000 international visitors to the city, which could translate to a huge revenue boost for Nevada retail sportsbooks and casino resorts.

However, the big ticket event could be in for some serious disruption, as tens of thousands of workers from top Las Vegas casino operators MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, and Caesars Entertainment look increasingly likely to be on strike.

“It’s time for these companies to sit down and negotiate,” said Ted Pappageorge, Culinary Union secretary-treasurer, speaking to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“If they’re not willing to do that, then we’re going to ask customers to take their money and spend elsewhere. We have a huge network and ability to communicate with workers across the country, and we will do that.”

The Demands and the Deadlock

The union’s demands are clear: wage increases, job security against increasing automation, and the maintenance of daily room cleanings.

Las Vegas has seen record numbers of visitors so far in 2023, and casinos have made record revenues. The union, representing workers who haven’t seen a new contract since before the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighted this in a statement made late last week.  

“A month ago, workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, and we have continued negotiating in good faith. bBut unfortunately, companies haven’t made enough movement in negotiations,” wrote Pappageorge.

“Their current proposal on the table is historic, but it’s not enough, and workers deserve to have record contracts – especially after these giant corporations are enjoying their record profits.”

He added that casino operators had made “some movement” on wage demands, but were still falling short of worker’s demands in other areas.

The union has a significant strike fund to support its members, and workers are prepared to continue picketing up until and throughout any strike action. Late last month, some 75 workers were arrested at a picket protest, in which some union members sat down and blocked traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Largest Increase Employees Have Seen

On the other side, Caesars CEO Tom Reeg was confident his company’s pay packet offer would carry negotiations forward eventually.

“When we reach an agreement on the contract, it’s going to be the largest increase that our employees have seen in the four decades since we started interacting with the Culinary Union,” Reeg said in last week’s company earnings call.

A deal could be reached “next week, a couple of weeks from now, or a month from now. But we are in dialogue constantly with the union, and have further meetings this week,” he said.

However, with the race weekend looming, an event on which Las Vegas has already spent tens of millions preparing for, a contract signed in a month’s time will not be soon enough to avoid massive disruption.

Tourists Support the Cause

Tourists and visitors are caught in the crossfire of this looming strike. The city, which prides itself on impeccable service, faces a real threat to its reputation should the strike proceed.

Despite the probable disruption of the fabled Las Vegas Experience that will result, many locals and tourists support the cause.

“At least for us, the tourists, I think we’re going to have a little trouble,” said one Mexican tourist visiting MGM this week, speaking to local outlet KSNV.

“But I think it’s for the best for them. So, I’m okay with that.”

Another visitor to Vegas said she supported the strike action. But she would personally avoid visiting the city over F1 weekend because of it.

“I think that waiting even longer for things would definitely make me say, ‘Oh, whenever things calm down in Vegas, we’ll go then,’” she said.

Another group that will be watching the Las Vegas strike closely is the fellow striking casino workers in Detroit. Some 3,000 union members at the three biggest Michigan casino venues recently entered their third week of strike action, during which dozens of members have traveled to Las Vegas to protest in solidarity with their fellow casino workers.

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