Three thousand workers on November 1 blocked three lanes of traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard to demand a contract for workers at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vega, a casino on the famous Las Vegas Strip.
Another 120 were arrested inside the casino after they sat down, started chanting, and refused to leave.
The acts of civil disobedience were the latest in an ongoing campaign by the 60,000 member Culinary Union to win a contract that provides union scale pay, benefits, and job security for its 2,000 members at The Cosmopolitan.
“Cosmopolitan workers do the same jobs union members do but get paid less, have high health insurance costs, and no job security,” said Vivian Gray a housekeeper at MGM who took part in the union’s most recent action. “We’re all workers, and we all deserve the opportunity to provide for our families.”
After The Cosmopolitan opened in 2012, a majority of its workers signed union authorization cards stating that they wanted to join the Culinary Union and have a collective bargaining agreement.
Cosmopolitan management was willing to recognize the union, but it was unwilling to pay union wages and benefits.
For example, union casinos on the Strip pay the full premium for their workers’ health insurance; Cosmopolitan refuses to do so.
Workers also want the same kind of job security that other union members enjoy.
At Cosmopolitan, management can cut back worker hours, and unlike workers at other union casinos, Cosmopolitan workers have no recourse.
“Right now, I’m full time, but I’m scheduled at 32 hours a week,” said Andy Spicuglia, a master cook, to the Las Vegas Sun. “They can cut hours and send people home early, and I have to take vacation time to make up for lost wages. Then when it comes time to take a vacation, I don’t have any left.”
The union also wants a successor clause in the new contract to ensure that any new buyer of The Cosmopolitan recognizes the union.
There is some speculation that Deutsche Bank of Germany, the Cosmopolitan’s owner, is looking to sell.
The Culinary Union, which is affiliated with UNITE HERE of the AFL-CIO, is undoubtedly Nevada’s most powerful union and has used its power to make work at the union casinos good paying work.
The average pay and benefits for non-tipped union workers on the Strip is $21.27 an hour; at non-union casinos, it’s $10 an hour.
Union casino owners on The Strip have been paying close attention to what is happening at The Cosmopolitan, and are looking to take advantage of it.
The union contracts expired on June 1 without the two sides reaching an agreement.
The two sides are continuing to talk, but management keeps pointing to The Cosmopolitan when the union seeks to protect and improve pay and benefits.
The Culinary Union in a recent bargaining update to members said that, “In negotiations on October 9, MGM Resorts said: ‘The Cosmopolitan pays $2 an hour less, and they don’t pay benefits. (MGM is) at a great disadvantage, and we have serious concerns about competitors and what they pay’.”
The November 1 actions by Culinary Union members was the third time this year that workers have committed acts of civil disobedience to press their case for standard union pay and benefits for workers at The Cosmopolitan. They were joined by Culinary Union members who work at MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and other unionized companies in Las Vegas.