LAS VEGAS (AP) — Following a breakthrough deal at dawn Wednesday between the Las Vegas hotel workers union and Caesars Entertainment, a tentative contract was taking shape for 20,000 hospitality workers at rival MGM Resorts International that experts say would almost certainly thwart an unprecedented strike on the Las Vegas Strip.
“I believe we will come to a deal today. We know from listening to our employees that they are looking for a pay increase to combat inflation, among other concerns,” MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle told investors in an earnings call at the same time negotiations were taking place in a casino ballroom. “This deal, when announced, will do just that.”
The Culinary Workers Union had threatened to begin a strike in the pre-dawn hours Friday if negotiations failed.
But the union’s tentative agreement with Caesars appeared to be providing the momentum needed for the union to win new contracts for all 35,000 of its members who have been working under expired contracts at 18 hotel-casinos.
“As soon as one company reaches a deal, the others just fall right in line,” said Bill Werner, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, whose research includes hospitality law and labor relations. But, he said, “I would say this is as close as we’ve come in a long time to an actual strike.”
The breakthrough pact with Caesars came after 20 straight hours of bargaining that began Tuesday and stretched into Wednesday morning, the union said.
Caesars said in a statement that the agreement “recognizes the integral contributions our Team Members have made to the success we have seen in Las Vegas over the last few years” with meaningful wage increases and opportunities for growth tied to plans to bring more union jobs to the Strip.
The contract, which is pending approval by the union’s rank and file, would cover properties including the company’s flagship Caesars Palace and Flamingo, Harrah’s, Horseshoe, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, Cromwell and Linq.
Outside Caesars Palace on Wednesday, Joshua Guray told The Associated Press he came in on a morning flight from Los Angeles and planned to be in Las Vegas for less than 24 hours.
The only item on his itinerary? A dinner reservation with a friend at one of his favorite restaurants — Bacchanal, the luxury buffet at Caesars Palace.
Guray said he didn’t know that tens of thousands of hotel workers were in the middle of contract negotiations before he planned his trip. But he said if a tentative contract hadn’t been reached and a strike coincided with his travel plans, he would have ditched his dinner reservations.
“I try to stand in solidarity with other workers,” he said. “Life can be hard out there so I understand what they’re fighting for.”
Bethany Khan, the union’s spokesperson, said terms of its deal with Caesars would be made public once approved. A vote is expected to take place in the coming days.
A sweeping walkout could still happen if the union cannot make deals with MGM Resorts, the state’s largest private employer, and Wynn Resorts by 5 a.m. Friday. Negotiations with Wynn Resorts are scheduled for Thursday.
A strike by workers at the two remaining companies would cut to the heart of the city’s economic backbone and significantly disrupt operations at some of the most recognizable Las Vegas hotel-casinos as they prepare to host hundreds of thousands of people for next week’s Formula 1 debut on the Strip.
It would also be the latest in a series of high-profile actions nationwide in what has been a big year for labor unions. That includes walkouts in Hollywood, 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.
The inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix course will feature sweeping views of many of the casinos at risk of walkouts: Aria, Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York-New York, Park MGM and Wynn and Encore resorts.
The hospitality workers say they will strike for as long as it takes to get fair contracts — from the housekeepers and utility porters who work behind the scenes to keep the Strip’s mega-resorts humming, to the bartenders and cocktail servers who provide the customer service that has helped make Las Vegas famous.
Tiffany Thomas, a guest room attendant at Mandalay Bay, said she is fighting for her family and future hospitality workers.
“I am willing to go on strike because I have a 10-year-old daughter who comes to negotiations with me, and she is going to inherit all of this,” Thomas said. “I refuse to sit back and watch what we’ve built crumble. I want my daughter to look at me and know I fought for a better future.”
Bargaining has been underway since April over pay, benefits, job security and working conditions, but negotiations ramped up in recent months after an overwhelming majority of union members voted in September to authorize a strike.
The vote was followed by large-scale rallies, including one last month that ended with the arrests of 58 workers who sat in the street and halted rush-hour traffic on one of the most recognizable stretches of the Strip. The workers called it a show of force ahead of any potential strike.
Members currently receive health insurance and earn about $26 hourly, including benefits, Khan said. The union hasn’t revealed what it has been seeking in pay raises because, Khan said, “we do not negotiate in public,” but the union has said it is negotiating the largest wage increases in its history.
The workers have also said they want better job security amid advancements in technology, as well as stronger security protections, including more safety buttons on casino floors.