Las Vegas Culinary Union Holds Bargaining Edge as Strike Looms, Stanley Cup and JCK Jewelry Show Could Push Casinos to Settle

Posted on: May 24, 2018, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: May 24, 2018, 02:27h.

Members of the Las Vegas Culinary union may hold the trump card when it comes to contract negotiations with 34 major Strip and downtown casino and hotel venues now threatened with a possible city-wide strike by its 50,000+ constituency.

Las Vegas Culinary Union
Casinos are hoping to come to terms with the pervasive Las Vegas Culinary Union before members strike. (Image: Isaac Brekken/Associated Press)

Local 226 — along with Bartenders Union 165 — voted nearly unanimously on Tuesday to authorize a strike should new contracts not be reached before they expire at midnight Pacific Time on May 31.

A walkout isn’t imminent, as the vote was only to give power to union leaders to initiate a strike at any time after June 1 should negotiations stall. But the threat looms over the city’s economy just as the always-packed Memorial Day weekend approaches.

Giving Culinary even more power, the Vegas Golden Knights bring game one of the Stanley Cup Final to T-Mobile Arena on Monday. Four days later, union members could walk off the job, which would throw the gaming epicenter into complete chaos.

After speaking with financial analysts, the Associated Press reporter Regina Garcia Cano concluded that the strike “could cost the destination millions and lead to travel woes for anyone taking a vacation or business trip to Sin City.”

The Culinary Union represents workers ranging from cooks and kitchen personnel, to waitstaff, bartenders, housekeepers, and bellmen. The union said 99 percent of the 25,000 members who voted backed a strike if it comes to pass.

The union is seeking wage increases, benefit protections, and greater measures to protect against sexual harassment, including from customers and high-rollers.

Playing Its Hand

T-Mobile Arena and its surrounding area will be packed Monday, as Las Vegas celebrates its first major professional sports team and the franchise’s NHL Stanley Cup run in its inaugural year. The fairy tale success story has played out with about the same odds, fanfare, and amazement as Meghan Markle received for becoming Duchess of Sussex and marrying a British prince.

Game 2 is on Wednesday, after which Games 3 and 4 will take place in D.C., on the Washington Capitals’ home ice.

Should there be a Game 5, the series will return to Las Vegas on June 7. The inevitable crowd fervor and massive attendance — especially in the wake of the Oct.1 shooting travesty — will not be something that casino and resort operators want to put a buzz kill on by having thousands of striking workers on picket lines up and down the Strip and downtown.

MGM and Caesars own 18 of the 34 properties that need to reach new terms with the union. The two companies presumably have contingency plans to keep their resorts at least partially open should a strike occur.

Both the union and casino operators hope to avoid a walkout. Culinary Union Secretary Geoconda Argüello-Kline said it’s a “last resort,” but added members will be ready if contracts aren’t reached in a timely manner.

Early June is a busy time in Las Vegas, not only due to families beginning their summer vacations, but also because of several large conventions.

The JCK Las Vegas annual high-end wholesale jewelry show — which brings with it many millions in gold and gems and the accompanying need for security — runs at Mandalay Bay June 1-4, with an estimated 35,000 attendees. The Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association — aka AVIXA — will bring 38,000 people between June 6-8 to the Las Vegas Convention Center and Westgate Resort. Westgate is also facing the strike.

Taxing Threat

Casinos aren’t the only ones that will be hurt financially from a strike. Workers will miss out on pay, and both the state and city government will lose tax revenue.

While gaming operations might continue — since the Culinary Union doesn’t represent actual gaming floor dealers and pit bosses — if hotels are forced to cancel reservations, sales and occupancy taxes will decrease.

Villanova University economics professor David Fiorenza told the AP that if the strike lasts more than a few days, cancellations of many impending bookings are almost inevitable.