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Unions Reach Deal With The D; 5 Casinos Remain Unsigned

The D Las Vegas reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract with two unions,  but time is running out to reach new agreements with five other casinos where contracts expired on June 1, 2013.

In a statement Friday, the Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 said the contract with the D is similar to deals reached earlier with Golden Nugget, El Cortez, Main Street Station, and Fremont.

The new contract is retroactive to June 2013, if ratified by union workers at the D.

"The new contract protects the union standard in downtown Las Vegas," said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Union. "We are not done until all our members get a fair contract."

The unions have set a 5 a.m. Sunday deadline to reach new contracts or they’ll strike. Restaurant, hotel and bar workers are picketing and chanting “No contract, no peace” as curious tourists and locals wander along Fremont Street.

Employees at five other downtown casinos - Four Queens, Binion’s, Plaza, Las Vegas Club and Golden Gate - plan to walk off the job if no new contracts are reached. Boyd Gaming Corp.'s California Hotel and Casino is a non-union hotel and is not participating in contract talks.

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Contract talks were expected to continue throughout the weekend.

On Wednesday, the unions reached a tentative 5-year contract with the El Cortez to avert a strike, but terms were not disclosed. The El Cortez contract follows the Golden Nugget, Fremont and Main Street Station deals.

Any walk out will affect more than 1,000 workers. But will the Culinary and Bartenders Unions actually walk off the job on Sunday, or will both sides find a last minute compromise to maintain labor peace?

The rhetoric from union workers at hotels with new contracts supports the notion that they’ll join others on the picket line.

"I'm glad that we have an agreement," said Ron Gladstone, a kitchen steward at The D Hotel and Casino. "I will continue fighting until everyone else has the opportunity to provide for their family and will be joining the picket lines on June 1."

Linda Hunt, a food server at the El Cortez, said even with a contract she’ll join the picket line if there is a strike. “I was ready to strike to get a new contract,” Hunt said. “But now that I know that my job security, healthcare and wages are protected, I will be on the picket line supporting everyone else.”

Gaming industry analysts believe the current negotiations are a key issue in Las Vegas. Robert Shore, an analyst with Union Gaming Research, wrote in a research report that he continues to meet with “officials involved in the debate and believe this warrants mentioning.”

The Culinary and Bartenders Unions represent more than 55,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno, including most of the casino resorts in the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas. Shore noted that a key sticking point has been the debate over how to pay for employee benefits.

“We are cautiously optimistic that a deal can be reached before the June 1 strike date,” Shore wrote. “There could be an opportunity in the longer term to reprogram some properties in downtown and add more non-gaming amenities. There is a clear revival taking shape in downtown Las Vegas. In our view, the current Culinary Union negotiations are just a short-term headwind.”

The threat of a strike comes as gaming revenues in downtown Las Vegas posted a modest decline last month, according to figures released by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Downtown Las Vegas, which includes Fremont Street, posted a 2.55 percent decline in gambling revenues in April, earning $44.06 million, compared with $45.22 million in April 2013. Overall, for the 2013-2014 fiscal year revenues were up 0.75 percent to $426.4 million from $423.2 million for the same period last fiscal year.

Downtown Las Vegas casinos and unions have enjoyed labor peace for 12 years. The last strike was at the Golden Gate in 2002, which lasted nine days and protected employees’ free health insurance and brought them a modest $2 in hourly wage increases.

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