Las Vegas Hospitality Workers Become Latest Major Union to Authorize Strike Action

Andrew Moran
By Andrew Moran
September 28, 2023Business News

The Culinary Workers Union (CWU), which represents tens of thousands of Las Vegas hotel and casino workers, is the latest major union to authorize a strike. It’s the first time in more than three decades that CWU members have voted to walk off the job.

On Sept. 26, 95 percent of CWU members who turned out at the Thomas & Mack Center on the University of Nevada–Las Vegas campus voted to approve a strike as part of efforts to secure a new five-year contract. The union didn’t establish a deadline for a walkout as its leaders continue to negotiate with hotels and casinos for higher pay, better benefits, and improved working conditions.

“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,” Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union and its chief negotiator, said in a statement. “We have negotiations scheduled [for] next week with MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn/Encore Resorts, and it’s up to the three largest employers in Las Vegas to step up and do the right thing.

“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 [COVID-19] 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.”

Eighty-eight percent of CWU’s roughly 60,000 members—totaling about 53,000 employees—work in Las Vegas.

Maria Sanchez, a guest room attendant at the Bellagio and a Culinary Union member for three years, said that she feels she is “living to work” and doesn’t think that one job is enough to support her family and their future.

“The workload since the [COVID-19] 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,” Ms. Sanchez said in a statement shared with The Epoch Times. “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.”

While the hospitality employees have been working without contracts since Sept. 15, the terms and conditions of expired contracts, such as wages and benefits, mostly remain in effect.

Culinary Union leaders previously penned seven-day notice letters to the affected parties, including Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts, and Wynn Resorts.

All sides have been negotiating a new five-year contract with resort operators on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. But thousands of CWU-represented members have been bringing attention to the issue since June.

In July, the Las Vegas Strip posted nearly $835 million in revenues, topping the December 2022 record by $20.7 million, according to Nevada’s Gaming Control Board. The same month, the state’s casinos hit a single-month revenue record of more than $1.4 billion, surpassing the all-time high by $44 million.

Representatives of MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts didn’t respond by press time to requests for comment.

Labor Strife Nationwide

Over the past 12 months, labor unions across the country and in multiple sectors have organized and gone on strike for higher pay and better compensation packages. According to recent research from Cornell University, more than 320,000 workers have participated in labor actions this year.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Hollywood studios reached a deal this week to end the writers’ 148-day strike.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Big Three automakers—Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis—are involved in tough, simultaneous contract negotiations. The UAW is demanding a 40 percent pay boost, a 32-hour work week, and the restoration of traditional pension plans over four years; the automakers have countered with offers of roughly 20 percent raises over the length of the contract.

President Joe Biden became the first modern present to visit a picket line on Sept. 26 and agreed with auto workers in Michigan that they deserve the 40 percent raise.

“The fact of the matter is that you guys, the UAW, you saved the automobile industry back in 2008, you made a lot of sacrifices. You gave up a lot. And the companies were in trouble. Now they’re doing incredibly well, and guess what? You should be doing incredibly well,” President Biden told the crowd.

Another sizable labor union could soon hit the picket lines.

About 1,000 union workers and meatpackers in Austin, Texas, have turned down a four-year contract offer from Hormel Foods Corp., a move that could potentially result in a strike.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 said on Sept. 15 that workers had voted against the company’s contract offer. While the maker of Spam says that both sides have agreed to a contract extension until Oct. 8, the union is requesting a return to the negotiating table.

“Hormel’s record profits are just wages not shared fairly with the rest of us,” the UFCW bargaining committee said in a Sept. 15 statement. “The reality is that we keep Hormel running. We demand that Hormel does better and comes to the table for a fair agreement quickly.”

Union workers are demanding wage increases of $6.25 by September 2025. Hormel has offered a $2.15 wage increase over four years.

From The Epoch Times

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