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Thousands Of Culinary Union Members Authorize Strike


(AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Culinary Union leaders wrap up a vote on whether to authorize a strike Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in Las Vegas. A potential strike would affect 34 casino-hotels.

The Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas held a strike vote for the first time in 15 years yesterday, and they decided to strike if they can't agree on a new five-year contract with 34 properties. 

The vote Tuesday authorizes a strike at any time starting June 1.

The move hands union negotiators a huge bargaining chip as they work to solidify new five-year contracts.

“This is basically a tool they now have -- another arrow in their quiver so to speak that they have in negotiations,” Howard Stutz, executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports, told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Stutz said the vote was to get the union's message out, but people shouldn't be worried that the Strip is going to shut down on June 1.

“It was a good show by them," he said. "Everybody knew they were going to get that vote but it doesn’t mean anything is going to happen right away.”

The union last voted for a strike in 2002 but reached a deal before employees walked out. The last strike, in 1984, spanned 67 days and cost the city and workers tens of millions of dollars.
The contracts of 50,000 unionized workers are set to expire at midnight May 31, and negotiations with individual casino-operating companies have not led to agreements for new terms.
However, Stutz pointed out that five years ago, which is the last time the unions and the gaming companies negotiated, it took a year and a half to two years almost to settle everything. 
He said there wasn't any strike then even though one had been authorized but there were demonstrations and pickets. He expects the same kind of visible protests during these negotiations but he believes it is unlikely that there we any work stoppages. 
Union officials have said they want to increase wages, protect job security against the increasing use of technology at hotel-casinos, and strengthen language against sexual harassment.
Besides the wage demands, Stutz said the requests this time around are different than in times past. He said worries about job security, benefits and pay are usually addressed but concerns about sexual harassment and protections for immigrant workers are "unique."
MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp. operate more than half the properties that would be affected by a strike. MGM said it will keep meeting with the union.
"A vote such as this is an expected part of the process," the company said in a statement after results were released. "We are confident that we can resolve the outstanding contract issues and will come to an agreement that works for all sides."
Caesars released a statement late Tuesday saying it expects to reach an agreement with the union "on or about June 1."
If a strike were to happen, Stutz said it would hurt everyone involved.

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“It would hurt and it would hurt bad and I think nobody wants to see that,” he said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story) 

Howard Stutz, executive editor, CDC Gaming Reports

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