"Companies are generating record profits and we demand that workers aren't left behind and have a fair share of that success," said one Culinary Union leader.
Members of two Nevada labor unions—including the state's largest—on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to authorize a citywide strike at 22 Las Vegas casinos, while continuing to negotiate a new contract "in good faith" with gaming companies.
Chanting "one job should be enough," tens of thousands of cocktail and food servers, bartenders, cooks, porters, and other non-gaming hotel employees in the Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165—affiliates of the Unite Here—packed the Thomas and Mack Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where they voted by 95% during two sessions to approve a work stoppage at Las Vegas Strip properties owned by MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn/Encore Resorts.
The affiliated unions—which represent 60,000 Nevada workers, including 53,000 in Las Vegas—can now call a strike at any time. It would be the first citywide strike in the resort industry in nearly 40 years.
Since September 15, 40,000 union members have been working under an expired contract. The Culinary Union said it remains in "active negotiations" with employers over a new five-year contract.
"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," Culinary Union secretary-treasurer Ted Pappageorge said in a statement. "We have negotiations scheduled 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," Pappageorge added. "Companies are generating record profits and we demand that workers aren't left behind and have a fair share of that success."
Las Vegas set an all-time record for gaming revenue for the second straight year last year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The city's casino resorts reported $14.8 billion in 2022 revenue, a 10.5% increase over the previous year.
The unions' objectives include:
- Winning the largest wage increases ever negotiated in Culinary Union history;
- Reducing workload and steep housekeeping room quotas, mandating daily room cleaning, and establishing the right for guest room attendants to securely work in set areas;
- Providing the best on-the-job safety protections;
- Tracking sexual harassment, assault, and criminal behavior by customers;
- Ensuring advanced notification when new technology is introduced which would impact jobs and requiring training for new jobs created by technology;
- Guaranteeing healthcare and severance pay for workers who are laid off because of new technology; and
- Extending recall rights so that workers have more job security and have the right to return to their jobs in the event of another pandemic or economic crisis.
"I voted yes to authorize a strike because I'm fighting for my family and for our future," said Maria Sanchez, a Culinary Union member who works as a guest room attendant at the Bellagio. "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. I feel sad like I'm just living to work and it's not right."
"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," she added. "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."
In 2018, members of the Culinary and Bartenders unions voted to authorize a strike. A new contract was negotiated shortly after the vote, averting a work stoppage.
Last year, members of the Local 54 chapter of the Unite Here union—which represents hospitality industry employees in Atlantic City, New Jersey—negotiated new contracts that included the workers' largest-ever raise.