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Culinary Union to picket on Strip over Cosmopolitan negotiations

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Steve Marcus

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is shown at sunset from the roof of Planet Hollywood on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010.

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 | 1:56 p.m.

For the first time in a decade, members of the Culinary Union are planning to picket on the Las Vegas Strip, as contract negotiations remain at a standstill with the Cosmopolitan.

Union officials say the pickets planned for Thursday come after 18 months of negotiations with resort owner Deutsche Bank to establish a contract for workers. Negotiations have stalled on issues including wages, health care costs and job security. The Cosmopolitan is one of the few casinos on the Strip where employees are working without a contract.

"What workers believe is that if smaller places like the Riviera and Tropicana can pay workers decent wages and health care like other bigger properties on the Strip, there's no reason why the Cosmopolitan should be the exception," said Yvanna Cancela, spokeswoman for the union. "The workers are asking for same standards that have been established on the Strip over the past decade."

The pickets are scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Cosmopolitan is the only major casino in Las Vegas in negotiations to establish a contract with Culinary 226, union officials said. A majority of Cosmopolitan service employees signed cards in 2010 saying they wished to have union representation.

"We understand that it is the union's right to picket," said Amy Rossetti, Cosmopolitan vice president of public relations. "The Cosmopolitan has been negotiating in good faith and will continue to do so."

C.J. Harry, 40, a bartender at the Henry at the Cosmopolitan, said many minor parts of a contract have been agreed upon, but major issues remain unresolved.

"I came here from a union job, so I know the difference," said Harry, who has bartended in Las Vegas for 12 years and joined the Cosmopolitan when it opened two years ago. "I continue to work there in hopes we can get a contract. It's a good place to work. We just want to have conditions that are equal to everywhere else on the Strip."

Employees have agreed not to ask for pay increases for several years but want terms for issues such as seniority.

Also, under most union contracts, the resorts pay health care costs. At the Cosmopolitan, employees share those costs.

"My opinion is they are negotiating, but it's going much slower than most parties have anticipated," Harry said. "Tomorrow we're going to go out in front of the Cosmopolitan and show them we're ready to have a contract."

It is the first time the union has held pickets on the Strip since 2003, during negotiations with the former Aladdin, now Planet Hollywood.

The Culinary Union represents employees including food and beverage, house keeping and other service staff.

The only large casinos on or near the Strip where the Culinary Union does not represent employees are the Quad, the Palazzo and Venetian, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the Palms. Workers at those resorts have not asked to join the union.

The Culinary Union also does not represent workers at most properties off the Strip. For years, the union has battled Station Casinos over organizing employees. The biggest dispute has been over how to ascertain whether employees want to organize. Station wants its workers to hold an election by secret ballot, while the union prefers a card check, as was done at the Cosmopolitan.

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