LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tens of thousands of Las Vegas hotel workers set a deadline Thursday for a sweeping strike, threatening major disruptions to the city's economic backbone that could coincide with the Strip's inaugural Formula 1 races later this month.
The Culinary Workers Union said about 35,000 members whose contracts expired earlier this year are ready and willing to walk off the job at 18 casinos if deals aren't reached by Nov. 10 with casino giants MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts.
That's five days before the Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend, which is expected to bring thousands of people to the Strip, is set to kick off with an opening ceremony.
At a news conference, Ted Pappageorge, the union's secretary-treasurer and chief contract negotiator, urged tourists and Formula 1 ticket-holders to support the workers if they go on strike by not coming to Las Vegas or crossing the picket lines.
“We will be communicating to ask customers that they should take their business elsewhere,” he said.
Formula 1 did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Pappageorge said the union and its members hope it doesn’t come to a strike but that “workers are prepared, united and ready to strike if necessary.”
Nevada's largest labor union, with about 60,000 members statewide, hasn’t gone on strike in decades.
A walkout would be the latest in a series of high-profile labor unrest actions around the country — from walkouts in Hollywood to UPS' contentious negotiations that threatened to disrupt the nation’s supply chain — and would follow hospitality workers walking off the job last month at Detroit's three casinos, including MGM Grand Detroit.
In Las Vegas, the 18 properties that could be impacted by a strike are Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York-New York, Park MGM, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah’s, Horseshoe, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, The Cromwell, The Linq, and Wynn and Encore Resorts.
The union’s deadline comes after yet another unsuccessful round of negotiations with the three casino companies. A spokesperson for Wynn Resorts declined to comment. Caesars and MGM Resorts did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
Negotiations have been underway since April over topics such as pay and working conditions.
Members currently receive health insurance and earn about $26 hourly, including benefits, union spokesperson Bethany Khan said. She declined to say how much the union is seeking in pay raises because, she said, “we do not negotiate in public,” but the union has said it is asking for “the largest wage increases ever negotiated” in its history.
Hospitality workers — from bartenders and cocktail servers to kitchen employees and housekeepers — have also said they want better job security amid advancements in technology, as well as stronger security protections, including more safety buttons.
“We don’t feel safe on the casino floor,” veteran Bellagio cocktail waitress Leslie Lilla told The Associated Press. “We need enhanced security. We need emergency buttons in our service bars. We want to be protected, as well as for our guests.”
The union said it had been patient with the casino companies over seven months of negotiations that spurred large-scale rallies on the Strip, including one in October that brought rush-hour traffic to a halt and ended with the arrests of 58 hotel workers who sat in the street in what they described at the time as a show of force ahead of any potential strike.
“This is our time. This is the labor movement’s time,” Lilla said. “We know that we can’t be a society where it’s just upper class and lower class. There’s got to be a middle. Unions create that middle class.”
Rio Yamat, The Associated Press