Friday morning in Las Vegas saw labor peace, and not a threatened strike along the Strip, as the Culinary union has reached its third tentative labor deal in three days with a casino operator.
The union that represents more than 35,000 cooks, food servers, bartenders, housekeepers and other workers at 18 major casinos had threatened to wage the largest strike in US hospitality industry history starting at 5 am local time Friday. Instead it announced a tentative deal with Wynn Resorts, which followed similar agreements Thursday with MGM Resorts International, which owns eight of the casinos, and Wednesday at Caesars Entertainment, which owns nine of the casinos.
The deal with Wynn was reached at 2 am PST Friday, following all-night negotiating sessions Tuesday and Wednesday night at Caesars and MGM.
“We strongly believe that only the most talented and empowered employees, working in an environment in which they feel valued and well compensated, can deliver our signature Wynn and Encore guest experiences,” said Michael Weaver, spokesperson for Wynn Las Vegas. “Therefore, we are very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement.”
All three of those tentative agreements need to be ratified by rank-and-file members before they can take effect and end the risk of a strike altogether. But while details of the agreements were not immediately available, the union’s chief negotiator called the deals “historic” and “life changing” for members, many of whom have to work two jobs to support themselves and their families. In addition to pay increases, the union said the deals include workload reductions for guest room attendants, mandated daily room cleaning (which is a job security issue for the union), increased safety protections for workers on the job, expanded technology contract language, and extended recall rights in case of layoffs.
“After seven months of negotiations, we are proud to say that this is the best contract and economic package we have ever won for in our 88-year history,” said Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the union and its chief negotiator. “With this new union contract, hospitality workers will be able to provide for their families and thrive in Las Vegas.”
In Las Vegas, typical rents spiked nearly 40% from prior to the pandemic, according to Zillow. Typical rent reached a high of $1,861 a month in July of 2022, which was up 38% from $1,351 a month in July 2019. Since that peak, rents in Las Vegas have come down slightly, following national trends, and the typical rent in the city was $1,808 in September of this year. But that’s still 33% higher than rent in September 2019.
The average Culinary union member in Las Vegas gets $26 an hour in both pay and benefits, but the union would not break out how much of that goes to salary and how much goes to benefits such as no-premium health care and a traditional pension plan that pays a monthly benefit to retirees.
While the terms of the deals were not immediately available, the union said Wednesday that the deal at Caesars immediately added nearly $4.57 an hour in additional money going to a combination of pay and benefits. It said there will be additional raises over the five-year life of the contract.
A Friday strike at almost all of the city’s major casinos would have come at a particularly bad time. The city is hosting an F1 Grand Prix that will include a portion of the Strip as a racetrack. Practice runs are scheduled for Thursday and Friday next week, and the race itself is set for Saturday, November 18. There are also concerts and other events scheduled, and by some estimates the weekend is expected to draw about 100,000 visitors to the city. Overall, the city has about 150,000 hotel rooms, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Unions have been flexing their muscles this year, taking the number of workers on strike to levels not seen in decades. There have been 348 strikes so far this year, up 56% from the same period of 2021, according to a strike tracker kept by Cornell University’s school of industrial and labor relations.
US unions have been winning some large gains in recent negotiations, sometimes with a strike, sometimes without.
Most recently SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 actors, was on strike for nearly four months against major studios and streaming services before reaching its own tentative deal Wednesday evening.
That deal came in the wake of the United Auto Workers union reaching deals with General Motors, Ford and Stellantis that included guaranteed wage increases of 25% over life of contract, which runs through April of 2028, and cost-of-living adjustments that could take the pay of most workers up more than 30% when combined with the guaranteed wages.
A coalition of unions at Kaiser Permanente won raises totaling 21% over the four-year deal, reached after 75,000 union members there waged the largest health care strike in US history.
And the Teamsters union reached a deal with UPS in July that averted an August 1 strike by more than 340,000 members, which included a minimum of $7.50 in hourly wage hikes during the life of the contract and raised the pay of a delivery driver there 18%, to $49 an hour. It also eliminated a lower tier of pay for many union members and gave bigger pay hikes to some part-time workers.
But some unions have yet to be able to reach deals on new contracts, including 3,700 members of a coalition of unions — which includes the Teamsters and the UAW — who have been striking three Detroit casinos since October 17. One of those casinos is owned by MGM.
And about 15,000 union members have been waging a series of set-duration on-and-off strikes against 65 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties in California since July 4.