Las Vegas Sun

December 6, 2019

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It’s in nobody’s interest’: Scholars say impact of a strike would bleed into local economy

Union Strike Vote

Steve Marcus

Members of the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, applaud during a presentation before voting on whether to authorize a strike Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in Las Vegas. A potential strike would affect 34 casino-hotels.

If 50,000 Culinary Union workers in Las Vegas follow through on a proposed strike starting Friday, the economic impact would extend far beyond the 34 affected Strip and downtown resorts, scholars said Wednesday.

UNLV’s Stephen Miller, director of the school’s Center for Business and Economic Research, said hiccups in casino operations in the event of a citywide strike of union cocktail servers, bartenders, housekeepers, food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks and other kitchen workers would almost certainly deter some tourists from traveling to Las Vegas. That in turn will translate to lost business not only for casinos, but local businesses and off-Strip entertainment venues and restaurants.

“Some people are going to cancel their trips and not come, other people will come but won’t have their expectations met,” Miller said. “But the community and the city really doesn’t want this strike to take place.”

About half of the union members voted nearly unanimously last week to authorize the citywide strike when the current contract with casinos expires on Friday. About 80 percent of Culinary Union workers are employed by MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment — the other 20 percent by Penn National Gaming, Golden Entertainment and Boyd Gaming.

The last time Culinary Union members staged a citywide work stoppage was in 1984, when 15,000 workers went on a 67-day strike and lost $75 million in wages and benefits. Individual properties have also had work stoppages, most notably a six-year strike at the Frontier in the 1990s.

Overall contribution of the Southern Nevada tourism industry totaled $58.8 billion in economic impact last year, per figures from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, equaling about $161 million per day. Direct visitor spending in 2017 accounted for more than 31 percent of Southern Nevada’s gross domestic product.

Representatives from Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis, which develops economic research reports for the authority, declined comment on potential strike implications. But Ruben Garcia of UNLV’s Boyd School of Law said the economy would be “certainly affected” from a decrease in tourists and lower spending potential of union workers without an income.

Miller disputed a claim made by economists representing the union that MGM and Caesars would lose more than $300 million in earnings over the first month of a proposed strike. While the claim was “based on good information,” Miller argued casinos would find a way to replace union workers with temporary ones and continue operating near full strength until a new contract is signed.

Representatives from MGM and Caesars said they were confident a deal will be reached before a strike takes place.

“With the Stanley Cup here and World Series of Poker coming, I just can’t imagine we’ll see a strike,” Miller said. “It’s in nobody’s interest.”