Culinary draws inspiration from Detroit while ramping up pressure on the Strip
Culinary workers marching the Strip on Oct. 12, 2023. (Photo courtesy Culinary 226)
Thousands of casino union members in Detroit, including workers from MGM Grand hotel, went on strike last week.
In Las Vegas, Culinary Workers Local 226 Local Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge Monday said action in Detroit is “showing us the way” as the Culinary warns of an impending strike of hotels on the Las Vegas Strip.
Pappageorge wouldn’t specify a time table for a strike, saying only that the “time is running out” for companies to meet their demands.
“We are putting the industry on notice that we think in the next several weeks there are going to be multiple strike deadlines for different groups of properties,” he said. “Their strike deadline time is now.”
Culinary Workers Local 226 is scheduled to meet again with MGM Resorts, Caesars, and Wynn this week as it pushes for a new, five-year union contract.
The Culinary has picketed outside several properties in order to pressure resorts throughout the negotiating process, and plans to rally on the Las Vegas Strip again Wednesday night.
Similar to the demands of 3,700 workers on strike at three casinos in Detroit, the Culinary Union – which represents roughly 60,000 workers in Nevada – is calling for wage increases and greater protections against the threats posed by emerging technologies that could replace jobs.
The union has stated that it is seeking “the largest wage increases ever negotiated in the history of the Culinary Union,” but Pappageorge has previously declined to share specifics of the union’s wage increase request.
One area that the Culinary differs from Detroit workers is its demand to mandate daily room cleaning requirements that were adopted in 2020 during the height of the pandemic but repealed during the recent 2023 legislative session.
In a recent interview, Pappageorge said Democratic leadership at the legislature “turned its back” on worker demands.
The Culinary is also seeking contract provisions to extend “recall rights” that enable workers to return to jobs in the event of another pandemic or economic crisis and to reduce housekeeping quotas.
“It’s time for companies to make a significant move if they really want to try to resolve this without a strike,” Pappageorge said. “At this time, we haven’t seen this kind of movement.”
Culinary membership voted overwhelmingly in September to authorize a strike if the resort industry doesn’t agree to contract demands.
Since each company negotiates separately, Pappageorge said on Monday it’s possible that the union secures a contract for one company even as others fail to meet demands.
“We have a huge responsibility to make sure … we can get to a settlement that is a fair agreement and fair contract for the next five years with one of these companies,” he said. “We are going to do whatever it takes, up to and including a strike, to make sure we get that same agreement with the additional companies.”
Striking Detroit casino workers are part of the Detroit Casino Council, which includes UNITE HERE Local 24. The Culinary is also a UNITE HERE affiliate.
Some Detroit workers were in Las Vegas Monday to show solidarity. Jamil Johnson, who has worked for MGM Grand in Detroit for 16 years, said that they want “economic justice,” reiterating the Culinary’s union’s slogan that “one job should be enough” to survive.
“We are the workers who helped these companies weather the storm of the pandemic,” he said. “They have made boatloads on the backs of our hard work. We just want our fair share.”
In addition to Wednesday’s rally, the union also that 75 workers will participate in “civil disobedience” by disrupting traffic as a form of nonviolent protest.
“Our goal is to send a message to these companies that they aren’t going down the right path. Of course nobody wants a strike,” Pappageorge said. “At the end of the day there has to be recognition that these companies only made it through the pandemic because of these workers. Now the idea that they are going to be shortchanged while companies are setting record profits is unacceptable.”
This article was updated to correct the casinos the Culinary Union has threatened to strike.
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