Two unions representing 50,000 culinary workers and bartenders in Las Vegas are prepared to begin a citywide strike Friday if their contract isn’t accepted.
Unite Here Locals 226 and 165, which represent casino workers at 34 resorts in Las Vegas, have been fighting for a fairer contract for workers that includes greater protections from sexual harassment, subcontracting, immigration disputes, and automation. On May 22, 99 percent of union members voted in favor of authorizing a strike beginning June 1.
The contract the unions are asking be accepted also includes measures for greater profit-sharing, given the generous windfalls awarded to massive resort companies like MGM Resorts International (which operates flagship casinos like MGM Grand, Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, New York-New York, The Mirage, Mandalay Bay), Caesars Entertainment Corporation (which operates Caesar’s Palace and Nobu along with Bally’s, Harrah’s, and Planet Hollywood), Penn National, Golden Entertainment, and Boyd Gaming, among other resorts.
“A strike is a last resort. We want to come to an agreement, but the union and workers are preparing for a citywide strike if contracts are not settled by June 1,” Local 226 Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline said in a public statement. “We support innovations that improve jobs, but we oppose automation when it only destroys jobs. Our industry must innovate without losing the human touch. That’s why employers should work with us to stay strong, fair, and competitive.”
Workers demanding a fairer share of profits following the passage of the Trump tax cuts last year have a point. According to Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch, MGM Resorts International reported a net income of $1.4 billion in February when taking its new tax benefit into account.
“I don’t want to go on strike, but I will,” stated Aria employee Adela Montes de Oca. “The company is more profitable than ever because of the hard work we do, and I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that we have a fair share of that success.”
Workers’ demands for greater protections from sexual harassment are particularly relevant given the news of casino magnate Steve Wynn allegedly raping and sexually harassing multiple female employees. A recent survey conducted by the culinary workers’ and bartenders’ unions found that 59 percent of cocktail servers and 27 percent of housekeepers reported being sexually harassed by guests and/or managers on the job, along with a majority of both groups saying a customer or manager had said or done something that made them feel uncomfortable and/or unsafe on the job.
The unions are asking anyone planning on visiting Las Vegas in the event of a strike to not cross picket lines in solidarity with striking workers, and are operating VegasTravelAlert.org to keep travelers abreast of news regarding labor disputes.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.