More than 50,000 service industry workers in Las Vegas voted on Tuesday, September 26, to authorize a strike that could impact 22 casino resorts on the Strip — which means bartenders, cooks, cocktail and food servers, guest room attendants, porters, bellmen, laundry, and kitchen workers statewide could hit the picket line at any time.
The Culinary Workers Union Local 226, one of the largest and most powerful unions in the country, represents 60,000 workers across Nevada. 53,000 members are based in Las Vegas and are in active negotiations with casino and hotel employers for a new five-year contract. As of September 15, roughly 40,000 workers employed by the three largest gaming employers in the state — MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Encore Resorts — are working under an expired contract.
Hospitality workers flooded the Thomas and Mack Center at the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Tuesday to vote in favor of authorizing a citywide strike. The union didn’t immediately set a deadline for a walkout and continues bargaining for better pay, benefits, and working conditions with the top casino employers on the Las Vegas Strip.
“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,” says Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “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.”
The Culinary and Bartenders Unions have proposed new five-year contract language to provide items including the largest increase ever negotiated in the history of the Culinary Union, a reduced workload for housekeeping workers, safety measures like wearable safety buttons, health care, and severance pay for workers who are laid off because of new technology, and job security and the right to return to their jobs in the event of another pandemic or economic crisis.
Bethany Khan, director of communications and digital strategy for the union, says that members currently receive full family coverage health insurance and the average union member earns approximately $26 an hour. She did not comment on the pay increase that the union is actively bargaining for.
“I’ve worked hard for decades to provide for my family and I want to continue to protect my retirement and pension,” says Roselyn Buie, a cook at the Flamingo Las Vegas and Culinary Union member for 37 years. “If I have to go on strike to win the best contract ever, then I’m ready to do that in order to win for my family and have my fair share of what we deserve.”
A strike by Nevada’s largest labor union would be the latest in a string of labor actions taking place across the U.S., including the Writers Guild of America strike that ended Wednesday. On the same day that the Culinary Union voted to authorize a strike, President Joe Biden made history by joining United Auto Workers strikers on a picket line. And just last month, UPS workers ratified a five-year contract, eliminating a strike risk. The Culinary Union’s strike also piles onto what is becoming a chaotic fall season in Las Vegas.
Union contracts are currently only expired with eight of the MGM Resorts properties, each of the Caesars Entertainment properties, and Wynn Encore Resorts. Expired agreements regarding wages, benefits, and job security protections are still largely in effect — but “no-strike” provisions are no longer in effect, meaning workers may go on strike at any time.
Culinary and bartenders unions are negotiating a new five-year contract with the following casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip:
- MGM Resorts International: Aria Resort and Casino, Bellagio Hotel & Casino, Excalibur Hotel & Casino, Luxor Hotel, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, MGM Grand, New York-New York Hotel & Casino and Park MGM Las Vegas.
- Caesars Entertainment Corporation: Caesars Forum, Caesars Palace, Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, Horseshoe Las Vegas, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino, the Cromwell Las Vegas, and the LINQ Hotel + Experience.
- Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort
Culinary and bartenders unions are also negotiating a new five-year contract with the following casino resorts that are still under a contract extension:
- Las Vegas Strip: Circus Circus Hotel & Casino, Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, Hilton Grand Vacations, the Mirage, the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, Sahara Las Vegas, the Strat, Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, Tropicana Las Vegas, Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, Virgin Hotels, Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas, and Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.
- Downtown Las Vegas: Binion’s Gambling Hall, Circa Resort & Casino, Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino, El Cortez Hotel and Casino, Four Queens Hotel & Casino, Fremont Hotel & Casino, Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, Golden Nugget Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, Main Street Station Casino Brewery Hotel, The D Casino & Hotel, and Plaza Hotel & Casino.
MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, and Wynn Encore Resorts did not respond to requests for comments.