Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2024

Culinary Union: Tentative deal reached with Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas on new contract

Negotiations with MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts ongoing

Culinary and Casinos Still in Contract Negotiations

Steve Marcus

Ted Pappageorge, center, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, speaks during a break in contract negotiations between the union and Caesars Entertainment at the Horseshoe Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. With Pappageorge, from left, Leain Vashon, Diana Valles, president of Local 226, Maria Espino, and Jennifer Black. Terry Greenwald, secretary-treasurer of Bartenders Union, Local 165, is seated at right.

Updated Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023 | 5:35 p.m.

Representatives of Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract with Caesars Entertainment after a marathon 20-hour negotiations session, just days before the strike deadline for the 10,000 union members working at nine Caesars properties on the Las Vegas Strip.

Nevada’s largest union has been bargaining with Caesars, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts since April, and last week set a strike deadline of 5 a.m. Friday after members voted in September to authorize a strike.

“We reached a historic settlement yesterday with Caesars Entertainment, and we are very pleased about that,” Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer and chief negotiator for the union, said Wednesday. “Caesars Entertainment is a community leader — an industry leader — and they recognized that it was the right thing to do.”

The negotiating committee recommended unanimously to send the contract for ratification to union members, with voting taking place over the next 10 days. Caesars workers in the unions will not participate in a strike, if one does occur, while the vote on the contract is pending.

Pappageorge said he was confident union members at Caesars would accept the contract, which he called “historic in nature,” with wins like its first workload reduction in the last 30 years and the ability to campaign and support workers at nonunion restaurants on union properties.

“We think this is the best contract we’ve ever had,” he said.

In a statement, Caesars called its workers “the best in the industry,” and said it was glad to have reached an agreement that would recognize their contribution to the company’s recent success, and also demonstrate its commitment to its staff.

“In this landmark agreement, our nearly 10,000 (union) team members will see meaningful wage increases that align with our past performance, along with continued opportunities for growth tied to our future plans to bring more union jobs to the Las Vegas Strip,” the company said. “Through this agreement, Caesars Entertainment will ensure that as we grow, our team members grow with us.”

The union achieved all of its goals, including historic wage, pension and health care increases — which Pappageorge said were important both in light of record resort profits and high costs of living — restrictions and new language around the introduction of technology and artificial intelligence into the workplace, job safety, daily room cleaning and more, Pappageorge said.

Culinary representatives, however, did not divulge specifics of the contract.

“Our last contract was the best ever, but this contract … with the partnership of Caesars Entertainment, and hopefully, today MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts tomorrow, it’ll be a historic contract that’ll be life-changing for workers,” he said, noting that daily-room cleaning — which the union supports for worker safety — was perhaps the most highly contested issue, which makes the union’s victory on it with Caesars that much more important.

He added that the same concession on daily room cleaning “has to happen” before an agreement can be reached with the other two resort companies.

Culinary was in talks Wednesday with MGM, and is slated to meet today with Wynn Resorts. Pappageorge said during a media availability Wednesday afternoon that the union was “cautiously optimistic” about reaching an agreement with MGM, which he added would be expected to mirror the contract from Caesars.

Members have said that the most important issue to them, in addition to daily room cleaning and economics, was technology, Pappageorge said.

Culinary’s technology language includes advance notice from the company if new technology will affect or even take a worker’s jobs, training on new forms of technology and a safety net in pay and benefits if a worker does lose their job, he said.

“We’ve lost jobs due to technology, so we want to preserve them,” Cherie Earl, a cocktail server at MGM’s Mandalay Bay property, said Wednesday, adding that she’s willing to strike for satisfactory technology language. “I know technology’s inevitable — it’s gonna happen regardless — but we want to be prepared and we want language just to protect all of us and our jobs.”

About 25,000 workers — 20,000 at MGM and 5,000 at Wynn — could still go on strike in the predawn hours Friday if the two resort companies fail to follow in Caesars’ footsteps.

In an earnings call Wednesday, MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle told investors he was confident a deal would come together before Friday.

“We know from listening to our employees that they are looking for a pay increase to combat inflation, among other concerns. This deal when announced will do just that and will result in the largest pay increase in the history of our negotiations with the Culinary Union.”

Pappageorge said during a media availability Tuesday that hospitality workers would receive strike ID cards this week and would be expected to walk the picket lines 20 hours a week to receive strike pay — $300 for the first week, and $400 every week following — if contracts for MGM and/or Wynn Resorts employees were not secured by Friday’s deadline.

“We’ve never had short strikes,” said Pappageorge, pointing to the union’s support of MGM Grand Detroit workers in Michigan, who have been on strike themselves for several weeks. “All of our strikes have been very long, very difficult — very nasty. So nobody wants a strike. But we’ve been able to build a standard of living that we’re going to protect, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to do that.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[email protected]/702-990-8926/@_katieann13_ The Associated Press contributed to this report.