Las Vegas Hospitality Workers Vote to Authorize a Strike as Negotiations With Resort Companies Continue
On Sept. 26, members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 voted 95% in favor of authorizing a citywide strike at 22 casino resorts properties on the Las Vegas Strip, operated by the three of the largest gaming employers: MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment Corporation and Wynn and Encore Las Vegas.
The strike authorization attracted tens of thousands of hospitality workers, who packed in two sessions to cast their votes at the Thomas and Mack Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. According to union officials, 53,000 Las Vegas workers were eligible to vote in the strike authorization.
Alongside the Bartenders Union, the Culinary Union in Nevada represents 60,000 guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, bartenders, laundry and kitchen workers in Las Vegas and Reno. The unions are Nevada affiliates of national labor organization UNITE HERE, which represents 300,000 workers in the gaming, hotel and food service industries in North America.
While the unions’ negotiating committee is now authorized to call for a strike at any date or time, it has not yet set a strike deadline and is continuing active negotiations with casino/hotel employers for a new five-year contract, according to union officials.
The contract terms include better wages and benefits, workload reductions, technology protections, on-the-job safety, bringing more workers back to work and protecting the right to strike. Multiple rounds of negotiations with the top three gaming companies have taken place, but no tentative agreement for a new contract has been reached.
Citywide contract negotiations are being led by Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer and chief negotiator Ted Pappageorge and President Diana Valles, alongside Bartenders Union Secretary-Treasurer Terry Greenwald and President Lana Loebig.
“Today, Culinary and Bartenders Union members have sent the strongest message possible to the casino industry to settle a fair contract as soon as possible,” Pappageorge said. “We have negotiations scheduled next week with MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn/Encore Resorts and it’s up the three largest employers in Las Vegas to step up and do the right thing.”
He continued, “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. 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.”
Why it matters
According to Culinary Union officials, both unions have been without a contract for approximately 53,000 of their members since June 1.
In early September, union officials sent a formal letter to eight of the MGM Resorts properties, each of the Caesars Entertainment properties and Wynn/Encore to initiate a seven-day notice to end the contract extensions that were in place.
Terminating the contract extension agreements signifies that 40,000 union members are working under an expired contract and that there is an increased risk of a potential major labor dispute.
“I voted yes to authorize a strike because I’m fighting for my family and for our future,” said Maria Sanchez, a guest room attendant at the Bellagio and three-year Culinary Union member, at the strike authorization event. “The workload since the pandemic has been intense and when I get home I’m so tired and I don’t have energy to take my two kids to the park or play with them.”
She continued, “I feel sad, like I’m just living to work, and it’s not right. I was thinking about getting a second job, but I’m already doing more than one job at work right now and I believe that one job should be enough! I voted yes to win the best contract ever so that I can work one job and come home to spend time with my children.”
During a labor dispute in late 2022 with the Orlando Convention Center and Las Vegas Convention Center, Sodexo food service workers represented by UNITE HERE voted to authorize a strike within six weeks and three weeks, respectively. In both cities, a contract was finalized before the deadlines.
If a similar time frame is used by the Culinary and Bartenders Unions in Las Vegas, a contract deal deadline to prevent a strike would fall somewhere between Oct. 17 and Nov. 1, according to Culinary Union officials.
“We are negotiating for the best contract ever in the Culinary Union’s history to ensure that one job is enough,” Pappageorge said. “As companies reduce labor, there are less workers who have even more responsibilities and are doing more work instead of spending quality time with their families, and that has to change. Workers have built this industry and made it successful and that’s why we are demanding that workers share in that prosperity.”
He continued, “It’s disappointing that we are still so far apart from the casinos after months of negotiations with the largest three gaming companies in Las Vegas. We are fighting to protect our good jobs with fair wages, job security and great benefits so that workers and their families can thrive.”
Update: On Oct. 3, the unions kicked off critical negotiating sessions with hotel and casino operators, according to Reuters. If a new contract deal isn't reached soon, Pappageorge said, "Any time after October 6th, there could be a strike."