UNITED STATES NEWS

Wynn joins Caesars and MGM in reaching tentative deal to avoid a strike by Las Vegas hotel workers

Nov 9, 2023, 10:03 PM | Updated: Nov 10, 2023, 3:50 am

LAS VEGAS (AP) — After a marathon week of negotiations, the Las Vegas hotel workers union announced that it reached a tentative deal with Wynn Resorts, preventing a strike that was set to begin Friday morning if bargaining had failed.

The new 5-year contract announced early Friday covers 5,000 employees at the company’s flagship hotel-casino and Encore Resorts. It comes on the heels of deals made earlier in the week with casino giants Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts.

Experts said a strike by workers at the companies would have been historic, especially as hundreds of thousands of people were expected to attend next week Formula 1’s debut on the Las Vegas Strip.

The union says the contracts will provide more than 35,000 workers at 18 properties with historic pay raises and other unprecedented wins, like mandatory daily room cleanings.

Over seven months of bargaining, the workers said they were willing to strike over that issue, which underscored the big issues that the union said it wanted to address for workers across the board in their first contract since the pandemic. That includes better job security, working conditions and safety.

Terms of the contracts weren’t immediately released. The union said the deals are pending approval by the rank and file.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Over seven months of tense negotiations, mandatory daily room cleanings underscored the big issues that Las Vegas union hotel workers were fighting to address in their first contracts since the pandemic: job security, better working conditions and safety while on the job.

From the onset of bargaining, Ted Pappageorge, the chief contract negotiator for the Culinary Workers Union, had said tens of thousands of workers whose contracts expired earlier this year would be willing to go on strike to make daily room cleanings mandatory.

“Las Vegas needs to be full service,” he said last month.

It was a message that Pappageorge and the workers would repeat for months as negotiations ramped up and the union threatened to go on strike if they didn’t have contracts by first light on Friday with MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts.

But by dawn Thursday, after a combined 40 hours of negotiations, the union had secured tentative labor deals with MGM Resorts and Caesars, narrowly averting a sweeping strike at 18 hotel-casinos along the Strip.

The threat of a strike on a much smaller scale still loomed while negotiations were underway Thursday evening with Wynn Resorts. But a walkout wasn’t likely given the tentative deals already reached with the Strip’s two largest employers.

Terms of the deals weren’t immediately released, but the union said in a statement the proposed five-year contracts will provide workers with historic wage increases, reduced workloads and other unprecedented wins — including mandated daily room cleanings.

Before the pandemic, daily room cleanings were routine. Hotel guests could expect fresh bedsheets and new towels by dinnertime if a “Do Not Disturb” sign wasn’t hanging on their hotel room doors.

But as social distancing became commonplace in 2020, hotels began to cut back on room cleanings.

More than three years later, the once industry-wide standard has yet to make a full comeback. Some companies say it’s because there are environmental benefits to offering fewer room cleanings, like saving water.

MGM Resorts and Caesars didn’t respond Thursday to emailed requests for comment about the issue. Pappageorge said this week that, even as negotiations came down to the wire ahead of the union’s plans to strike, the union and casino companies were the “farthest apart” on the issue.

A spokesman for Wynn Resorts said they already offer daily room cleanings and did not cut back on that service during the pandemic.

Without mandatory daily room cleanings, Pappageorge has said, “the jobs of tens of thousands of workers are in jeopardy of cutbacks and reduction.”

It’s a fear that Las Vegas hotel workers across the board shared in interviews with The Associated Press since negotiations began in April — from the porters and kitchen staff who work behind the scenes to keep the Strip’s hotel-casinos running, to the cocktail servers and bellman who provide customers with the hospitality that has helped make the city famous.

During the pandemic, the hospitality industry learned how to “do more with less,” said David Edelblute, a Las Vegas-based attorney and lobbyist whose corporate clients include gaming and hospitality companies.

And that combination, he said, could be “pretty catastrophic” for the labor force.

Rory Kuykendall, a bellman at Flamingo Las Vegas, said in September after voting to authorize a strike that he wanted stronger job protection against the inevitable advancements in technology to be written into their new union contract.

“We want to make sure that we, as the workers, have a voice and a say in any new technology that is introduced at these casinos,” he said.

That includes technology already at play at some resorts: mobile check-in, automated valet tickets and robot bartenders.

Pappageorge, who led the negotiating teams that secured tentative deals this week with the casino giants, said a cut in daily room cleanings also poses health and safety concerns for the housekeepers who still had to reach a daily room quota.

Jennifer Black, a guest room attendant at Flamingo Las Vegas, described her first job in the hospitality sector as “back-breaking.”

A typical day on the job, she said, requires her to clean 13 rooms after guests have checked out. Each room takes between 30-45 minutes to clean, but rooms that haven’t been cleaned for a few days, she said, take more time to turn over.

“We’re working through our lunch breaks to make it,” she said. “Our workload is far too much.”

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Wynn joins Caesars and MGM in reaching tentative deal to avoid a strike by Las Vegas hotel workers