The Culinary Workers Union, which has not gone on strike for more than thirty years, has yet to set a deadline for the walkout. Negotiations are ongoing with top casino employers on the Las Vegas Strip, including MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts, as the union pursues better pay, benefits, and working conditions.
If the largest labor union in Nevada were to proceed with a walkout, it would add to a series of notable job actions taking place across the country. For instance, Hollywood has also recently experienced walkouts. On the same day as the Culinary Workers Union vote, President Joe Biden showed his support by joining United Auto Workers strikers on a picket line in Michigan. Earlier this year, UPS reached an agreement before a work stoppage that could have significantly disrupted the nation’s supply chain.
In light of the pandemic’s end, workers have become increasingly willing to walk out on their jobs, demanding higher wages, better job security, and improved working conditions. Employers are now facing a greater need for workers.
Representing approximately 60,000 hospitality workers statewide, the Culinary Union is Nevada’s largest labor union. The contracts for 40,000 of its members recently expired.
Deanna Virgil, a long-time employee at Wynn Las Vegas, expressed her views after casting her vote: “We are the glue that keeps these hotels together, and we should be paid what we deserve.”
Over 53,000 housekeepers, cocktail and food servers, porters, cooks, bartenders, and other hotel employees in Las Vegas were eligible to participate in the vote. MGM Resorts, Caesars, and Wynn Resorts will return to the bargaining table with the union next week.
MGM Resorts, in a statement released on Tuesday night, expressed confidence in successfully negotiating a beneficial contract for both parties, highlighting their longstanding history of fruitful bargaining with the union.
Caesars chose not to respond to email inquiries, while Wynn Resorts stated that they had no comment to offer.
The Fight for Fair Pay and Benefits in the Hospitality Sector
In the hospitality sector, many workers are struggling to make ends meet despite dedicating their lives to the industry. One such worker is Virgil, who has been in the sector for 38 years. Luckily, she has the support of her adult daughter, without which her financial situation would be dire. Virgil emphasizes that having two jobs should not be a requirement for survival.
Seeking Fair Compensation
The union representing hospitality workers, Bethany Khan as the spokesperson, emphasizes that all of its members receive health insurance and currently earn approximately $26 per hour including benefits. Although the union does not disclose its specific wage increase demands, it has stated that it is seeking the largest increases in its history. Negotiations regarding pay raises are conducted privately and behind closed doors.
A History of Fighting for Workers’ Rights
In 1991, a major strike took place at the now-closed Frontier hotel and casino in downtown Las Vegas. This strike made history as one of the longest in the United States, lasting over six years. Remarkably, all strikers were eventually able to return to their jobs with back pay and benefits.
Success in Atlantic City
Last summer, the casino workers’ union in Atlantic City achieved significant victories in their contract negotiations. The landmark contracts provided workers with the largest raises they had ever received while also eliminating the possibility of future strikes for several years. This achievement is crucial for Atlantic City’s casino industry as it strives to regain pre-pandemic levels of business.
Unlike previous contracts, where the focus was mainly on preserving healthcare and pension benefits, the union prioritized “significant” pay raises this time around. The goal was to help workers keep up with the skyrocketing costs of essential items such as gasoline, food, rent, and other living expenses.
The fight for fair pay and benefits in the hospitality sector continues as workers and their unions strive to create a more equitable working environment. With a strong sense of unity and determination, these workers are making their voices heard and demanding the compensation they deserve.