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Crisis Averted: The City of Lost Wages Becomes the City of Won Wages

Crisis Averted: The City of Lost Wages Becomes the City of Won Wages

On November 9, one Las Vegas union, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, reached a tentative agreement for a five-year contract with MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts. 

Just one day before the strike deadline, MGM Resorts joined the other two companies in a tentative deal covering over 30,000 local workers, averting a more extensive strike and walkout. The negotiations had been going on since April. If an agreement was not reached by the deadline, hotel workers in the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 threatened to walkout at 18 participating casinos during the Strip’s annual Formula 1 races later this month. MGM Resorts stands as one of the largest employers of hotel workers in Las Vegas. Before a settlement was reached, the union urged the public to avoid patronizing hotels and casinos embroiled in a labor dispute. This walkout would have been detrimental to the entire Las Vegas economy, with MGM alone selling more than 10,000 tickets to the Formula 1 event and expecting to generate an additional “$60 million in extra hotel revenue that weekend”, said MGM’s Chief Executive, Bill Hornbuckle. 

With the Formula 1 Grand Prix event rounding the corner, the timing of the strike was significant. The Las Vegas Strip had already invested a substantial amount towards the event, transforming streets into a racetrack with scenic views showcasing many of the city’s prominent casinos. Las Vegas attorney David Edelbute emphasized the strategic placement of the deadline before Formula 1, stating: “It was very useful on Culinary Union’s part to place the deadline right before Formula 1 because everybody in town is aware of how important it is to not just the employees who are in tip positions that can make additional money, but for the future of Las Vegas.” 

The formation of unions among hotel workers is essential for promoting fair labor practices, improving working conditions, and empowering employees to have a say in their workplace. It contributes to a more equitable and respectful work environment, benefiting both workers and the industry as a whole. The impact of a walkout of thousands of hotel workers would be apparent, particularly during a time like this, with rooms becoming less available, cleanliness compromised, and service significantly delayed. Despite the lengthy negotiation period, MGM has expressed satisfaction in averting such a sweeping strike.                                                  

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 has a long history of striking for job safety, higher wages, and union rights– and winning. It is Nevada’s largest Latinx/Black/AAPI/immigrant organization, with members coming from 178 countries and speaking over 40 different languages, as stated on their website. The workers are also Nevada affiliates of UNITE HERE, a larger union representing about 300,000 hospitality workers. Since 1967, the Las Vegas Culinary Workers Union has successfully secured wins for their workers and even cultivated the largest strike in Las Vegas history. However, this win seems to be particularly noteworthy. 

“After seven months of negotiations, we are proud to say that this is the best contract and economic package we have ever won in our 88-year-history,” said Ted Pappageorge, the union’s secretary-treasurer and chief negotiator, in a statement. The workers have secured substantial annual raises for the next five years, preserved their health insurance, and maintained job security despite advancing technology. Although the exact rates settled upon are undisclosed, union spokesperson Bethany Khan revealed that members of the union earn an average of $26 an hour, coupled with health insurance. Specific terms have still not been publicly divulged, pending approval from the union’s rank and file. 

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 strike has added to a challenging year for labor unions around the country. From the walkouts in Hollywood to UPS workers threatening the national supply chain, wins such as the negotiations in Las Vegas will set a precedent for workers' advocacy for years to come. 

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