Las Vegas Culinary Union Overwhelmingly Passed Strike Vote

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Las Vegas is on the brink of experiencing its first major labor strike in decades.

The Culinary Workers Union, the largest labor union in Nevada, has given its leaders the green light to call a strike if there is no satisfactory conclusion to ongoing negotiations with casino operators MGM International, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts.

The Culinary Union represents some 60,000 workers across all operations of many of the famous Nevada casino venues on the Las Vegas Strip and beyond. This week, 95% of those workers voted in favor of potential strike action.

The union’s demands center around securing its most substantial wage increase ever, and improved health benefits. Hot on the heels of the city’s latest innovation, the imminent debut of humanoid AI-powered robot greeters at the new Las Vegas Sphere, workers are also seeking employment promises in the face of AI and other tech advances.

Ted Pappageorge, the Culinary Union’s secretary-treasurer, emphasized the union’s determination to achieve its goals. It says they are fair demands after record revenues and visitors to Las Vegas over the past years.

“If these gaming companies don’t come to an agreement, the workers have spoken and we will be ready to do whatever it takes — up to and including a strike,” he said.

“Workers brought every single one of these companies through the pandemic and into a great recovery, and workers deserve a fair share. Companies are doing extremely well, and we are demanding that workers aren’t left behind.”

Strategic Timing and Leverage

The timing of the union’s vote comes just weeks ahead of the highly anticipated Formula 1 Las Vegas in November.

Hundreds of millions have been spent on getting Sin City ready for the big ticket event, with some suggesting it could bring in over $1 billion in extra revenue.

Even without regulated Nevada online casinos brining in additional revenue, Las Vegas casino resort operators have been comfortably hitting a billion dollars in revenue a month for most of 2023.

MGM Resorts International is one of the biggest gambling operators in the world. Earlier this year it was the highest placed of the U.S. casino giants on the Forbes Global 2000 list of the world’s biggest companies.

Two operators, MGM and Caesars, are grappling with lawsuits and reputational damage after earlier this month falling victim to massive cyberattacks.  

Pappageorge acknowledged the astuteness of the union members, suggesting that they fully understand the leverage they hold, especially with the cyberattack fallout and the upcoming Grand Prix.

“Workers are not dumb,” he said.

“They’re really smart. They’re really smart. We’re concerned that companies have forgotten how this town really was built and how these companies got their profits.”

A City on Edge

The potential strike has given the city a nervous feel, with the significant economic implications it could have. Sin City, which relies heavily on its hospitality industry, could face disruptions at more than three dozen casinos and hotels, the very core of its economic infrastructure.

The next round of negotiations is slated for the coming week, with all eyes on the major players – the union, MGM Resorts, Caesars, and Wynn Resorts.

MGM issued a statement earlier this week. It pointed out its long history of good relationships with the Culinary Union, and that “both parties are committed to negotiating a contract that is good for everyone.”

The last time Las Vegas casino workers authorized a strike was in 2018, but contracts were successfully renegotiated before the deadline. However, that was only 25,000 people – this new strike could be potentially much bigger and more disruptive.

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