Thousands of Las Vegas workers to picket MGM, Caesars casinos

By Doyinsola Oladipo

(Reuters) -Thousands of Las Vegas workers will picket MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment casinos on Thursday for the first time in nearly two decades, the unions said, as they contemplate a possible strike.

The Culinary Workers and Bartenders Unions seek a new five-year contract with improved wages and benefits as casino operators post record profits. In prior negotiations, a strike threat was enough to spur a deal, but these talks have been slow, union representatives said on Monday.

“We’re not really seeing anything that’s sufficient to try to avert a strike and that’s unfortunate,” Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union, told reporters.

Union workers will picket in front of eight MGM and Caesars resort locations on Thursday. The unions have asked casino customers not to cross picket lines.

Unions in the auto, rail, healthcare and other industries have kept companies off balance in recent months with labor actions. The unions are among the most powerful in the United States, representing 53,000 hospitality workers in Las Vegas.

The unions met last week with MGM, Caesars and Wynn Resorts – the three largest private employers in Las Vegas.

Pappageorge said that negotiations were “very disappointing” and the companies did not make substantive wage proposals. The unions are demanding higher wages, stronger protections against new technology that may threaten jobs, lower housekeeping quotas and improved safety.

MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Some 95% of union members voted in September to authorize a citywide strike. Tourism is the city’s lifeblood and Las Vegas is gearing up for major events including a Formula 1 race expected to bring more than 100,000 tourists to the city in November.

In August, there were 7% fewer visitors to Las Vegas than in August 2019 before the pandemic. But room rates were more than 30% higher.

MGM has said that every 1% increase in wages would add about $10 million to labor costs, according to Truist analyst Barry Jonas. He estimated wage increases could cost Caesars $40 million to $60 million a year and double that for MGM based on their employee count.

(Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo in New York and Shivansh Tiwary in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Cynthia Osterman)