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Las Vegas hotel workers set a strike deadline with Strip Formula 1 races on horizon

Tens of thousands of Las Vegas hotel workers fighting for new union contracts set a strike deadline Thursday, threatening major disruptions at more than a dozen resorts — 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 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.

Ted Pappageorge, the union’s secretary-treasurer and chief contract negotiator, said at a news conference Thursday that the union and its members hope it doesn’t come to that, but, he said, “workers are prepared, united and ready to strike if necessary.”

Pappageorge also said the union is in “great shape” to provide financial support to striking members.

“We’re going to be able to take care of these workers,” he said.

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.

A spokesperson for Wynn Resorts declined to comment. Caesars and MGM Resorts did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

The union’s deadline comes after yet another unsuccessful round of negotiations with the three casino companies that own and operate some of the most recognizable hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, including the Bellagio, Paris Las Vegas, MGM Grand, Luxor and Caesars Palace.

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 amid months of negotiations that spurred large-scale rallies on the Strip, including one in October that brought rush-hour traffic to a halt and led to 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.”

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Source: NBC Los Angeles

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