Culinary gives resorts until Nov. 10 to avert ‘largest hospitality workers strike in history’
Culinary workers during a rally on the Strip on Oct. 25. (Photo courtesy Culinary Workers Union Local 226)
Culinary Workers Local 226 officials said resorts have until next Friday to put forward a contract that meets wage demands, secures worker protections against automation replacing jobs, and mandates daily room cleanings or around 35,000 union workers will commence a strike.
After months of negotiating with MGM Resorts, Caesars, and Wynn, Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge announced on Thursday that the union has officially set a deadline for Nov. 10 at 5 a.m. One of MGM’s properties, the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, would be exempt from a strike since MGM only acquired it last year the contract is not up for renewal.
“It will be the largest hospitality worker strike in the history of the U.S.” Pappageorge said. “Our goal is to get a great contract. We intend to do everything we can to do that. The message is very clear that workers are prepared and united.”
The announcement of the strike deadline comes as the city is prepared for several upcoming sporting events, most imminent the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix racing, with time trials starting Nov. 16, and the Super Bowl in February.
Pappageorge said even there there might be “directives from managers to take jobs,” without the thousands of workers providing food service and room cleaning, customers wouldn’t be “receiving the kind of service they would expect when they come to Las Vegas.”
The union, he said, has a “significant strike fund” to be able to support its member base during a strike and can also draw financial support from its national union, Unite HERE, along with the AFL-CIO.
“We’re going to be just fine with our strike fund,” he said. “We are very comfortable and are going to be able to take care of these workers.”
In order for workers to qualify for the strike fund, people have to walk the picket line for four hours, five days a week – timed during shifts they would normally work at their hotels.
Workers would be paid $300 per week the first week, which would increase to $400 a week.
Pappageorge said there is still time to negotiate and the union is working to avert a strike if possible, but if they are “forced out on a strike, they are prepared.”
“You know the day you go out and don’t know the day you go back and you have to be prepared,” he said. “That’s why we’re careful and we spend time with these companies and make very clear what is absolutely necessary to move forward and get to a settlement.”
The union is pushing for a new, five-year contract. Members voted overwhelmingly in September to authorize a strike if resorts didn’t meet contract demands.
Since then, workers have engaged in several pickets and demonstrations trying to push resorts to meet demands.
“We’ve been very patient with these companies,” Pappageorge said. “We’ve given them ample opportunity to do the right thing to bring to the table a fair and equitable contract. We think companies are doing well and we want them to share the wealth.”
Along with the “the largest wage increases ever negotiated in the history of the Culinary Union,” demands also include extending “recall rights” that enable workers to return to jobs following an economic crisis or another pandemic as well as increasing protections posed by emerging technologies that could replace union jobs.
Union members also want to mandate daily room cleanings, which was implemented as a safety protocol during the pandemic but was rescinded during the recent legislative session. Pappageorge said legislative democrats “turned its back” on union workers by repealing the requirement.
During the strike, workers would be stationed on 18 properties 24/7 with a clear message to anyone, including tourists, who want to cross the picket lines: “Take your money and spend it elsewhere.”
“If we’re on strike we would ask customers that they should take their business elsewhere,” Pappageorge said. “The right thing for these companies to do is to sit down and argue in good faith to get this contract done.”
“These workers helped build this town and brought these companies through the pandemic,” he said. “The idea that these companies are going to shortchange these workers is unacceptable. The reality is the company cannot function without these workers.”
A Las Vegas strike would not be the first strike MGM has seen this year. In October, 3,700 casino workers at three properties in Detroit began an ongoing strike asking for similar demands.
This article was updated to correct the casinos Culinary Union plans to strike.
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