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September 23, 2017

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Workers picket Cosmopolitan to spur negotiations

Hundreds show up to first Culinary Union action on the Strip in a decade


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Culinary Local 226 members picket outside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.

Updated Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 | 4:40 p.m.

Cosmopolitan Picket

Culinary Local 226 members picket outside of Cosmopolitan Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Several hundred people picketed Thursday in front of the Cosmopolitan, where workers say ownership has failed to come to the negotiating table prepared to discuss larger contract issues such as seniority and health care.

The Culinary Union Local 226 organized the protest, the first time the union has picketed a Strip property in a decade, to spur Cosmopolitan owners Deutsche Bank to accelerate negotiations, union representatives said.

Workers at the Cosmopolitan chose to unionize via a card check 18 months ago, representatives of the Culinary Union said, and while negotiations have covered what the union considers to be more minor issues, the more substantive talks have yet to occur.

“We feel we have been negotiating for long enough and now is the time to get a contract,” said Chris Eck, a server at the Cosmopolitan. “We’ve agreed on small issues, but we still need to discuss guaranteed work weeks, health care benefits and other matters.”

Eck said he was on a company health plan that deducts payments from his check, but he lost that health coverage because his hours slipped just below the 30 hours per week average needed each quarter to qualify for the plan.

“With a union contract we would have guaranteed work weeks, and I would have the option of paying to make up the difference in my hours so I would still get health coverage,” Eck said.

Picketers turned out between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday, and another protest was scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. As the crowd grew, two picket lines formed, one on the sidewalk passing in front of the Cosmopolitan and one in a lane of Las Vegas Boulevard that was closed off by Metro Police.

Eventually picketers stood on the pedestrian bridge at Harmon and Las Vegas Boulevard where onlookers also gathered to see what was happening.

Picketers carried signs that said “No Justice, No Peace” in English on one side and Spanish on the other side. The protesters chanted, beat drums and occasionally received support from honking motorists headed down Las Vegas Boulevard.

Protesters also handed out orange fliers in English and Spanish that outlined some of the workers’ grievances. The flier compared the “union standard” to conditions at the Cosmopolitan. The Culinary Union is fighting for language in the contract that clearly stipulates a housekeeper’s workload and expectations, full health care coverage, a guaranteed work week, protections for seniority and if the property changes ownership, a pension plan and other provisions.

“I love my job, but I want what everybody else gets,” said Michelle DiManso, a cashier at the Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon. “I believe they’ve been stalling when it comes to addressing the big issues.”

Reached for comment, the Cosmopolitan referenced a previously issued statement.

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

Suzan Jorgensen, who was in town from Michigan for a convention and was staying at Mandalay Bay, said she would not go to the Cosmopolitan because of the protest.

“It’s important how you treat your workers,” Jorgensen, a union member herself, said. “They have families too, and these employees are the backbone of these businesses. If they have voted to join the union, they should get the same deal as other Strip workers get.”

The Cosmopolitan is one of the few Strip properties where workers do not currently have a contract. The only Strip, or near-Strip, casinos where the Culinary Union does not represent workers are the Quad, the Palazzo, the Venetian, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the Palms. Workers at those resorts have not asked to join the union.

The last time the Culinary Union picketed on the Strip was 2003, when it was locked in negotiations with the former Aladdin, which is now Planet Hollywood.

The Culinary Union is the largest in Nevada, representing 60,000 members including housekeeping, food and beverage and other service staff.

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