A near unanimous number of members from the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the largest labor union in Nevada, and the Bartenders Union Local 165 have voted to authorize a strike on the Las Vegas Strip, following tens of thousands of hospitality workers casting their votes at Thomas and Mack Center on the University of Nevada’s campus.

Following a 95% vote in favor of strike authorization, the two-unions negotiating committee is now authorized to call a strike at 22 casino resorts along The Strip, divided between its largest employers: MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn/Encore Resorts. A strike deadline has not yet been set as negotiations continue among all parties involved.

This comes just a couple of weeks before the annual IMEX America, where more than 7,000 buyers and exhibitors are expected to be in attendance at Mandalay Bay.

“We’re aware of the situation and are in regular contact with the team at MGM,” says Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group. “They continue to have productive meetings with the union and believe both parties are committed to negotiating a contract that is good for all.  It’s important to understand the Culinary Union has not set a strike deadline and that negotiations are ongoing. We’re continuing to monitor the situation and will share updates as appropriate.”

Of the 60,000 Nevada-based hospitality workers the Culinary and Bartenders unions represent, 53,000 are based in Las Vegas and in negotiations with the three employers for a new five-year contract.

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Forty thousand are currently working under an expired contract at 22 casino resorts divided among the three hotel brands. Earlier in September, the unions sent a letter to eight MGM properties, each Caesars property and Wynn/Encore to begin a seven-day notice to end the contract extensions that were in place, resulting in the contract expiration. The Culinary and Bartenders unions are also negotiating a new five-year contract with 24 properties along The Strip and in downtown Las Vegas that are still under a contract extension.

“Wynn Las Vegas has historically had a positive and cordial working relationship with labor unions and has always reached satisfactory agreements with each. Our employees are the heart and soul of Wynn, and we will continue to work with Local 226 and Local 165 to reach an agreement that provides our employees with competitive wages and benefits, in a work environment that matches our high standards,” Wynn said in a statement.

According to a press release, the unions have proposed new five-year contract language created to provide increased security for workers with designs to achieve the following:

  • Winning the largest wage increases ever negotiated in the history of the Culinary Union.
  • 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 for all classifications, including safety committees, expanding the use of safety buttons to more workers, penalties if safety buttons don’t work, enforcing mandatory room checks for employee and public safety, and tracking sexual harassment, assault and criminal behavior by customers.
  • Strengthening existing technology protections to guarantee advanced notification when new technology is introduced which would impact jobs, require training for new jobs created by technology, health care and severance pay for workers who are laid off because of new technology, the right to privacy from tracking technology introduced by companies, consent in third-party data sharing workers have generated through their work, right to bargain over technology that tracks location of employees or messaging between workers.
  • 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.
  • Making clear that the no-strike clause does not prevent the Culinary Union from taking action, including strikes, against non-union restaurants on the casino property, and gives casino workers the right to respect picket lines.

Terms and conditions of the expired agreement, such as wages, benefits and job security protections remain in effect but, with no-strike provisions no longer in effect, hospitality workers could go on strike at any moment.

In addition to IMEX America, the Las Vegas Strip expects even more major conventions later this year and at the beginning of 2024, including TwitchCon in October, Formula 1 Las Vegas in November, Consumer Electronics Show in January and Superbowl LVIII in February. If there is a labor dispute, the Culinary Union asks locals, political officials and candidates, and tourists to not stay at these hotels and casinos.

Reasons for Striking

In the Culinary Union’s press release, several union members stated their reason for voting “yes” to a strike authorization:

“I voted yes to authorize a strike because I’m fighting for my family and for our future. 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 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,” said Maria Sanchez, guest room attendant at the Bellagio and Culinary Union member for three years.

“I was at the Thomas and Mack today to have my voice heard. I was proud to vote yes to authorize a strike to protect my future. I’ve worked hard for decades to provide for my family and I want to continue to protect my retirement and pension. If I have to go on strike to win the best contract ever, then I’m ready to do that in order to win for my family and have my fair share of what we deserve,” Said Roselyn Buie, a cook at the Flamingo and Culinary Union member for 37 years.