Thousands of Vegas casino workers to vote on citywide strike

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Tens of thousands of casino workers in Las Vegas whose contracts expire next week were preparing to vote on whether to authorize a strike, a move that could leave more than 30 properties without unionized housekeepers, bartenders, servers and other key employees.

A majority of yes votes Tuesday would not immediately affect the casinos but would give the union’s negotiators a huge bargaining chip by allowing them to call for a strike at any time starting June 1.

Here are some key things to know about the vote:

WHO IS VOTING?

Bartenders, housekeepers, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks and other kitchen workers employed at 34 properties are eligible.

The Culinary Union expects between 20,000 and 25,000 members to vote Tuesday at a university arena. The voting will take place in two sessions, allowing workers with different shifts to cast a ballot.

WHERE DO THEY WORK?

They work at properties on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas, including Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Stratosphere, Treasure Island, The D, Downtown Grand and El Cortez.

MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment operate more than half of the properties that would be affected by a strike.

WHY ARE THEY VOTING?

The contracts of 50,000 unionized workers expire at midnight May 31, and the casinos and union have not reached meaningful agreements since negotiations for five-year contracts began in February.

“On May 22, thousands of union members will show casino employers that workers are going to fight for security and that they are not going to be left behind as companies are making record profits and getting windfall tax breaks,” Geoconda Argüello-Kline, union secretary-treasurer, said in a statement earlier this month.

WHAT DO THE WORKERS WANT?

Argüello-Kline previously told The Associated Press that the union planned to negotiate with companies to protect existing benefits, increase wages, protect job security against the increasing adoption of technology at hotel-casinos, and strengthen language against sexual harassment.

The union has asked casino operators to give every housekeeper a “panic button,” a wireless device that can alert managers if they are in a threatening situation.

WHERE DO THE COMPANIES STAND?

MGM Resorts and Caesars have said they would work with the union to equip housekeepers at their Las Vegas casino-resorts with panic buttons.

Both companies previously said they are confident they will be able to reach mutually beneficial agreements with the union.

HAS THIS HAPPENED BEFORE?

Yes. The last citywide strike vote took place in 2002, when the overwhelming majority of 25,000 workers authorized the action. But workers never walked out of their jobs because casino operators and the union reached agreements.

The last time casino workers across Las Vegas went on a strike was in 1984, and it lasted 67 days. Union members lost an estimated $75 million in wages and benefits, while the city lost a similar amount in tourism revenue. Millions more were lost in gambling income.

This article provided by NewsEdge.