Las Vegas Strip Hospitality Workers Reach Tentative Deals With Wynn, MGM and Caesars, Averting Historic Strike Amid Contract Dispute
Following seven months of negotiations, tens of thousands of hotel workers represented by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 have reached a tentative deal with Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, averting a sweeping strike that could have massively impacted 18 major resort-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
According to Culinary Union officials, less than three hours before the strike deadline, the Unions reached a tentative agreement with Wynn Resorts on Nov. 10 at 2 a.m. for a new five-year contract covering more than 5,000 hospitality workers across the company’s two Las Vegas properties: Wynn and Encore.
Less than 24 hours before the deadline and after 20 hours of negotiating, a tentative deal was reached on Nov. 9 with MGM Resorts for a new five-year contract for approximately 25,400 hospitality workers at eight Vegas properties, while on Nov. 8, a tentative deal was made with Caesars for a new five-year contract covering approximately 10,000 hospitality workers at nine Vegas properties.
“After seven months of negotiations, we are proud to say that this is the best contract and economic package we have ever won for in our 88-year history,” said Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “Workers have secured significant raises every year for the next five years, preserved our great union health insurance, union pension and comprehensive union benefits, while gaining historic improvements in housekeeping workload reductions, substantial improvements for workers regarding safety at work, the ability to have a say in how technology impacts our work and ensuring the union and members can support non-union hospitality workers who seek to join our union.”
On Nov. 2, the unions, comprising approximately 35,000 members whose contracts expired earlier this year, announced a strike deadline of 5 a.m. Pacific Time on Nov. 10, setting the stage for the largest hospitality worker strike in U.S. history if a new five-year contract was not reached by that time, according to union officials.
At the heart of the labor dispute were negotiations over pay, working conditions and job security. Union members — including bartenders, cocktail servers, kitchen employees and housekeepers — were demanding better wages, enhanced job security and improved safety measures, including the implementation of more safety buttons in service areas to cut down on sexual harassment and assaults by customers. The Unions also asked for stronger technology protections that guarantee workers advanced notification if a new technology will be introduced that will affect their jobs.
Looming over the big three hotel giants was how a potential strike could cause significant disruptions to the city’s economic backbone, impacting massive citywide events and conventions including the inaugural Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, set for Nov. 16-18; AWS, Nov. 27-Dec. 1; the 2023 National Finals Rodeo, Dec. 7-16, as well as holiday season tourism.
The deadline followed a strike vote on Sept. 26, during which 95% of Culinary and Bartenders Union members voted in favor of authorizing a citywide strike at the casino resort properties on the Las Vegas Strip.
“A month ago, workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike and we have continued negotiating in good faith, but unfortunately companies haven’t made enough movement in negotiations,” said Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “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.”
Strike preparations well underway
The Unions had been actively preparing for months for a strike, amassing supplies for 45 strike stations and multiple picket lines across the Strip casino resorts, Pappageorge said.
Targeted properties included Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York-New York, Park MGM, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah’s, Horseshoe, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, The Cromwell, The Linq, Wynn and Encore Resorts.
The Culinary Union also mailed strike ID cards to all potential strikers and educated workers on how to sign up for strike pay, Pappageorge added.
“Culinary Union celebrated our 88-year anniversary [on Nov. 1], and we know first-hand the organizing and militancy it has taken to build Nevada’s middle class and what it will take to ensure working families can thrive,” Pappageorge said. “Nothing in our nine decades has been won the easy way and our good jobs weren’t handed to us. We made hospitality jobs in Las Vegas family-sustaining jobs with decades of sacrifice and strength, and we will once again win what we deserve: a great union job with fair wages, job security and the best health care benefits so that workers can provide for their families.”
Union members rally for new contract
On Oct. 12, thousands of Culinary and Bartenders Union members picketed on the Las Vegas Strip, for the first time in nearly two decades, in front of eight different MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment casinos. Vice President Kamala Harris visited with Culinary Union members to show her support to workers who are fighting for a contract.
“I wanted to come by and just acknowledge the Culinary [Union] workers,” Harris said. “I have known their work for years, and they are true champions for working people. When they are in this fight, all people, all working people really do benefit, so I applaud them.”
On Oct. 25, thousands of hospitality workers rallied on the Las Vegas Strip and 75 workers participated in a non-violent civil disobedience arrest action in front of the Bellagio and Paris as workers continue to push for a new union contract. Watch the video here.
“I was working at MGM Resorts during the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, so I have seen the highest highs and the lowest lows,” said Tiffany Thomas, a guest room attendant at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino and Culinary Union member for 17 years. “I know how much we have helped them succeed. We were there every step of the way. We sacrificed and worked so hard by going above and beyond. We even went back to work when there was no hope of a vaccine, but they are showing us now that they don’t care and we can’t stand for that.”
She continued, “I am willing to go on strike because I have a 10-year-old daughter who comes to negotiations with me and she is going to inherit all of this. I refuse to sit back and watch what we’ve built crumble. I want my daughter to look at me and know I fought for a better future. My co-workers and I are united and we are fighting for generations to come. We are ready to strike.”
The Unions asked Nevada locals, elected officials, political candidates and tourists to support hospitality workers by not crossing picket or strike lines to patronize hotels and casinos if and where there is a labor dispute.
Alongside the Bartenders Union Local 165, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 represents 60,000 guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, laundry and kitchen workers statewide.