Nearly all 25,000 members (99 percent) of the Culinary Union voted to go on strike after May 31 if casinos don’t agree to a proposed five-year contract. Should they follow through, it will be the first citywide labor strike since 1984, union spokeswoman Bethany Khan told the Los Angeles Times. The strike lasted 67 days.
The strike also could wreak havoc on a city that will host the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals, as the Las Vegas Golden Knights are on the threshold of a national championship in their inaugural season.
Ruben Garcia, a law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told the Times that hockey might help avert a strike. “I think it would be crippling because it’s summer and there will be a lot of big events, including the NHL playoffs,” he said. “I think it would be a very difficult time for the city to weather a strike.”
“A full-scale walkout, without a doubt, would hurt business,” added Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor, which tracks tourism trends, speaking with The Washington Post. “People want to be part of the party, watch games and bet on them. The games are on at every bar. This city has a fever.”
A new contract would cover 50,000 workers at 34 casinos,
One of the sharpest points of contention involves sexual harassment. “We have heard instances of verbal and physical abuse by guests and high rollers against cocktail servers and bartenders,” Khan said. “We want language in the new contract regarding guests and high rollers that show zero tolerance for harassment so workers can do their work in dignity.”
As theTimes reports:
The city that eschews prudishness in marketing and has spent decades building its reputation as Sin City suddenly saw one of its icons, Steve Wynn, fall from grace amid sexual misconduct charges by women who worked for him. Wynn is largely credited with innovating the current iteration of the Strip with glamorous resorts that began with the opening of the Mirage in 1989 and the Bellagio less than 10 years later.
Wynn’s downfall also helped convince Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Becky Harris — the first woman to head the powerful agency, a job she started days after the Wynn allegations were made public — to begin workshops with casinos, workers and the public to work toward crafting sexual harassment policies that could be recommended for adoption by the Nevada Gaming Commission.
“Our resort partners and their union representation have traditionally maintained a good working relationship,” the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said in a statement. “We continue to monitor the situation but are not directly involved in negotiations and are respectful of the collective bargaining process.”
News of a casino-workers’ strike comes at a time when renowned college basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli is trying to permanently bring the NCAA women’s basketball tournament to Las Vegas. Her plan calls for ditching the current format of four regional sites and bringing 16 teams to the city.
“[Women’s sports] are usually a tag-along, we’re an add-on, a bonus,” Antonelli told USA Today. “I want to be our own inventory. ... I want to be a sellable entity. Vegas wants us. They want women’s basketball. Think about what we could do if we had the Sweet 16 there. I imagine it could be ingrained in the community like baseball and softball are with their championships. I don’t think Omaha and Oklahoma City started out as destination cities — the NCAA brought sports to communities that wanted them. Vegas already is a destination city.”
Antonelli has pushed this idea for years, which now seems more realistic in the wake of the NCAA’s recent announcement that it was suspending its championship host policy related to sports wagering— which prohibited any NCAA championship competition from occurring in any state that allows single-game sports wagering. The association’s move after the United States Supreme Court shot down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).
“Nothing happens overnight, but this is going to get people thinking in a different way,” Jim Livengood, who works as a consultant with Las Vegas Events,told USA Today. “There are a number of things changing within the NCAA. I mean, we have alcohol at NCAA championship events now — who would have thought that would ever happen?”