Las Vegas Culinary Union Members Arrested at Protest for Fair Contracts

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This week, thousands of Las Vegas Culinary Union members took to the streets to protest for fair contracts during ongoing negotiations that could end in the largest strike action ever in the city.

The protest, which took place on the famous Las Vegas Strip, resulted in the arrest of 75 union members when some decided to block traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard.

The Culinary Union organized the protest to highlight their ongoing labor dispute with the famous Nevada casino venues of Las Vegas after contracts expired in September. The protest follows this month’s announcement of a picket line for off-shift workers, which will continue until the dispute is solved.

If ongoing negotiations with major operators like MGM and Wynn do not reach a satisfactory conclusion, Union officials say a full strike could be called as soon as next week.

Workers Arrested for Misdemeanors

The Union is demanding fairer pay and better working conditions for casino staff during a year in which Sin City visitor numbers have surged and casino resorts have posted record revenues.

Members of the union protested for approximately half an hour near the Paris Las Vegas and Bellagio casinos.

The protestors initially picketed, chanted, sang, and danced to music provided by a DJ on the sidewalk. However, the demonstration escalated when dozens of individuals walked into the middle of the road, formed two circles, and sat down, holding up traffic and refusing to move.

Local police subsequently apprehended the traffic blocking participants and placed zip ties on their wrists before leading them onto a police bus for processing. The arrested individuals were mostly cited for assembling to disturb the peace, a relatively minor misdemeanor.

Willing to Do What it Takes

Leslie Lilla, a cocktail server who has worked at the Bellagio for 25 years, was among those cited by the police.

“We’re ready to show our company by our feet, and that means walking ourselves right out of the building,” she said. “So we’ve been saving, and we’ve been putting money into our accounts.”

Another prominent figure arrested during the protest was Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge. He said the workers were willing to be arrested in the battle for better contracts.

“They are willing to do whatever it takes, including nonviolent civil disobedience,” he said.  “They are willing to get arrested to fight for their contract and fight for their families. We think that is something that the public will support.”

The union said it would cover all legal costs for those arrested, including lawyer fees and bail charges if needed.

No official strike date has yet been set, with only shift picketing and protests for now. However, Pappageorge said one could be called as soon as next week, with others over the following month.

That would be bad news for November’s upcoming Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, which is set to be one of the biggest sporting events ever held in the city. Casino operators have pulled out all the stops for the weekend, with multimillion race packages available for international jet set race fans.

However, industrial strike action from workers at casino resorts and Nevada retail sportsbooks would seriously disrupt the race weekend experience, as well as casino operator’s potential to hit the predicted $1 billion in extra revenue.

Support from Detroit Strikers

In a show of solidarity, dozens of the 3,700 striking workers from Michigan casino venues in Detroit joined the protests in Las Vegas this week. Casino workers there are currently in their second week of a full strike over contract disputes.

Local politicians have expressed support for the striking workers at the MGM Grand Detroit, with the casinos and Michigan retail sportsbooks seeing disruption and closures.

The union is seeking a five-year agreement, with salary, workload, and job security being the primary unresolved issues. In Detroit, MGM Resorts International, the largest U.S. casino operator, is one of the bigger employers at the centre of negotiations.

This week, MGM was also fined $6.8 million by lawmakers for Massachusetts casino venues, over labor violations at its MGM Springfield venue.

In Las Vegas, MGM spoke to union officials this week and discussions are set to continue over the weekendwith Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts.

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