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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 25, 2002

Vegas culinary strike not yet averted

By Angie Wagner
Associated Press

Housekeepers gathered for a Culinary Union meeting in Las Vegas yesterday at which their workload and health benefits were compared to workers with similar jobs in San Francisco. Improved conditions is one of the union's contract demands.

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Even with tentative agreements with three casino companies, the Culinary Union is making plans for a possible June 1 walkout.

"The deadline remains for anybody that hasn't reached an agreement by May 31 at midnight," Glen Arnodo, Culinary Union political director, said yesterday.

Union leaders reached five-year deals Thursday with eight hotel-casinos owned by Park Place Entertainment, Harrah's Entertainment and Tropicana-owner Aztar Corp.

But those agreements, which must be ratified by union members, cover only 16,500 maids, bellmen, cocktail servers and food service workers. The culinary and bartenders unions have 47,000 members.

Union officials said the contracts call for roughly $3.25 in hourly increases in wages and benefits over the length of the deal. Employer-paid health benefits are preserved, and working conditions for housekeepers are improved.

The union was negotiating yesterday with Boyd Gaming, and on Sunday with MGM Mirage and the Mandalay Resort Group. "We have a long way to go yet," Arnodo said.

Union contracts with 35 casinos expire on June 1, and the union has promised to strike at resorts where there is no contract by May 31.

It would be the first citywide strike since 1984, and economists say it would be a blow to an economy that still hasn't recovered from the tourism dip following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

While Thursday's agreements were a breakthrough in the negotiations, the union isn't taking any chances.

Yesterday, union members were reviewing picketing schedules and figuring out how to distribute food to strikers and their families.

Alan Feldman, spokesman for MGM Mirage, said the company remains optimistic a deal can be reached.