LAS VEGAS (AP) — MGM Resorts International, the largest employer on the Las Vegas Strip, has joined rival Caesars Entertainment in reaching a tentative deal with the Las Vegas hotel workers union to narrowly avert a sweeping strike.
Taken together, the pending agreements cover more than 30,000 hospitality union workers who had threatened to walk out in the pre-dawn hours Friday if negotiations failed. The workers include the housekeepers and utility porters who work behind the scenes to keep the Strip’s mega-resorts humming, and the bartenders and cocktail servers who provide the customer service that has helped make Las Vegas famous.
Terms of the new five-year contracts haven't yet been released, but the Culinary Workers Union said the agreements provide significant pay raises and safety improvements.
"After seven months of negotiations, we are proud to say that this is the best contract and economic package we have ever won in our 88-year-history," Ted Pappageorge, the union’s secretary-treasurer and chief negotiator, said in a statement.
Other wins are housekeeping workload reductions, improved safety and better job security amid advancements in technology, including robot bartenders.
"Workers have secured significant raises every year for the next five years, preserved our great union health insurance, union pension, and comprehensive union benefits," Pappageorge said.
After 40 combined hours of negotiations since Tuesday, the union on Thursday was turning its attention to winning the same terms by 5 a.m. Friday for 5,000 of its members who work at Wynn and Encore Resorts.
Until a deal is reached, the threat of a walkout — albeit on a much smaller scale — still looms. But that’s unlikely given the union's tentative agreements with Caesars and MGM Resorts.
The pact with MGM Resorts covers about 25,000 workers at the Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York-New York and Park MGM.
The union's breakthrough deal a day earlier with Caesars covers about 10,000 members at the company’s flagship Caesars Palace, as well as Flamingo, Harrah’s, Horseshoe, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, Cromwell and Linq.
MGM Resorts and Caesars released separate statements saying the tentative contracts recognize the union workers for their contributions to the companies' success, with historic pay raises and opportunities for growth tied to plans to bring more union jobs to the Strip.
Bill Hornbuckle, CEO of MGM Resorts, said in a statement Thursday, after a deal was reached, that employees "are the heart of our company and the driving force in the success we’ve enjoyed in Las Vegas post-pandemic."
The union has been fighting since April for new five-year contracts for members working at 18 properties owned or operated by MGM Resorts, Caesars and Wynn Resorts. But it hasn't revealed specifics about desired pay raises because, union spokesperson Bethany Khan said, "we do not negotiate in public."
Khan said members currently receive health insurance and on average earn about $26 hourly, including benefits.
The tentative contracts are pending approval by the union’s rank and file. A vote was expected to take place within two weeks. Terms will be made public after the contracts are approved, Khan said.
A strike by employees of all three companies would have been historic — both for its size and its timing.
Experts say the impacts of tens of thousands of workers walking off the job would have been immediate and obvious: Reduced room cleanings. Dirty, unpolished floors. Neglected landscaping. Slow service at restaurants and bars. Long waits at valet. Limited room availability.
Las Vegas-based attorney David Edelblute, whose corporate clients include gaming and hospitality companies, said the mass walk-offs could have been catastrophic, especially as the Las Vegas Strip expects to host hundreds of thousands of people for next week’s Formula 1 debut.
"It was very useful on Culinary Union's part to place the deadline right before Formula 1, because every body in town is aware of how important it is to not just the employees who are in tip positions that can make additional money, but for the future of Las Vegas," Edulblute said. "We have an opportunity to showcase that we are able to pull off an event of this scope, so it's important to the entire region."
The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix has transformed the Strip into a race track with sweeping views of many of the casinos that had been at risk of walkouts before the union secured the tentative contracts.
The Culinary Union’s threat to strike added to a big year for labor unions, including walkouts in Hollywood that ground the film and television industries to a historic halt, UPS’ contentious negotiations that threatened to disrupt the nation’s supply chain, and the ongoing hotel workers strike at Detroit’s three casinos, including MGM Grand Detroit.