For the first time in nearly 30 years, casino workers in Las Vegas are planning to go on strike if they cannot reach a contract deal with their employers by the beginning of June. CNN reported that 25,000 members of the Culinary Union will take to the picket-line if their contract deals are not renewed by June 1st. As the situation currently stands, the contracts of 50,000 casino workers, among them cocktail servers, cooks, bartenders and attendants will expire at the end of the month. The workers are employed at 34 different casinos on the Vegas Strip and in Downtown Vegas, including Mandalay Bay, Caesars Palace, Stratosphere Casino and MGM Grand Las Vegas.
A strike this huge could potentially cripple the city, since the workers make up more than half the hospitality worker population in Las Vegas.
A spokesperson for Culinary Union, Bethany Khan, noted that the workers wanted to protect their jobs and health benefits and the union was therefore trying to negotiate stronger contracts for them. Many workers fear that their jobs will be outsourced to cheaper laborers or even to “robots”.
“We know technology is coming, but workers shouldn’t be pushed out or left behind,” noted Chad Neanover, a cook who works in one of the resort kitchens. “Casino companies should ensure that technology is harnessed to improve the quality and safety in the workplace, not as a way to completely eliminate our jobs.”
On Tuesday, thousands of union workers chose to support the strike after two voting sessions were held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Culinary Union’s secretary-treasurer, Geoconda Arguello-Kline said that a strike was their last resort and stressed that the union wanted to reach an agreement. The secretary-treasurer warned, however, that “union and workers are preparing for a citywide strike if contracts are not settled by June 1st.”
In over three decades, Las Vegas has managed to find a happy medium between the casinos and employees. In 1984, a 67 day strike caused losses of nearly $75 million.