Las Vegas casinos could face a customer service nightmare this summer if unionized casino workers hit the picket lines.
This week, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 announced that their roughly 50,000 members will hold a vote May 22 on whether to walk off the job anytime after midnight on May 31, when their current contract with local casino operators expires.
The workers occupy a variety of frontline roles – including housekeeping staff, cooks, kitchen staff, porters, bartenders, food and beverage servers, etc. – at 34 different Vegas properties, with MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment among those operators that would be most affected.
Suffice it to say, these workers’ absence – or their temporary replacement by scabs unfamiliar with the nuances of their duties – would be noticed by the throngs of demanding tourists who descend on Vegas during the busy summer season.
Union reps have been in negotiations with their casino counterparts since February to work out details of a new five-year contract, with higher pay, increased benefits, workplace safety and tougher sexual harassment policies among the key issues.
The latter two issues have taken on heightened relevance over the past year, given last October’s mass shooting on the Vegas Strip and allegations of decades worth of sexual harassment by former Wynn Resorts boss Steve Wynn against his female staff.
Caesars had been mulling new safety protocols that would allow security staff to enter all hotel rooms once every 24 hours, even if a guest had hung out a ‘do not disturb’ sign, but Caesars backtracked on that proposal last week, according to Culinary Union reps who’d attempted to include such language in the new contract.
The last major strike to hit Vegas was way back in 2002, and it lasted all of one day before a new deal was struck. However, a 1984 strike lasted over two months and dealt a serious blow to operator revenue, workers’ bank accounts and the gaming hub’s reputation.
An MGM spokesperson told the Associated Press that the company was “confident we will find mutually beneficial solutions to all our contract issues.” A Caesars rep offered similar confidence that the parties would “achieve a good settlement before the current contract expires.”
The union ranks swelled last month when around 900 workers at the Palms Casino Resort voted to join the Culinary Union. The Palms was acquired by Red Rock Resorts (aka Station Casinos) in 2016, and a company spokesperson expressed disappointment with the vote and with “the manner in which the union conducted the election campaign.”