- The Culinary Union — an affiliate of Unite Here, the largest hospitality worker union in the country — announced the launch of a campaign to organize 10,000 non-union restaurant workers at casino resorts along the Las Vegas Strip, according to a release.
- The union’s drive to organize along the Strip began last week at Eataly Las Vegas when a committee of workers held big table negotiations with the Culinary Union and MGM Resorts International, which operates the restaurant.
- Hospitality workers nationwide are calling for better wages — and solidarity from travelers and consumers — amid a wave of union activity in the sector, particularly in the West.
The Culinary Union — which comprises the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 — is the largest chapter of hospitality guild Unite Here, representing 60,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. Its members include guest room attendants, servers, porters, bellmen, bartenders and laundry and kitchen workers.
According to the union, the average non-union wage in Las Vegas for a food prep worker or server is $14.39 an hour, or an annual salary of $29,920. The Culinary Union says this is not enough for workers to live in Las Vegas without second, and sometimes third, jobs.
“If restaurant workers have a 40-hour work week, they should be able to live the Las Vegas Dream, especially when restaurants rake in millions of dollars a year,” said Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union, in a statement.
At big table negotiations last week, Eataly Las Vegas workers presented company negotiators with a 6-foot petition signed by 80 colleagues demanding that MGM Resorts agree to a fair process to allow workers to decide whether to have union representation without management interference or intimidation.
Other restaurants on MGM Resorts properties, such L’Atelier De Joel Robuchon and the MGM Grand Buffet, are already unionized.
As part of its drive to further unionize along the Strip, the Culinary Union also launched a website, UnionEats.org, to provide visitors with a guide to union restaurants in the city. The site asks travelers to patronize the 300-plus Las Vegas restaurants where workers are represented by a union, such as Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant at Caesars Palace, Le Cirque at the Bellagio and Nobu at Paris Las Vegas.
Elsewhere, workers have also asked travelers to show their solidarity through their consumption choices. As Unite Here Local 11’s multihotel strike in California continues with little progress in negotiations, the union has asked travelers to boycott Los Angeles entirely.
The hospitality workers on strike in Southern California walked out for the same reason the Culinary Union hopes to organize more representation in Las Vegas: wages insufficient to cover the cost of living.
Earlier this year, a Unite Here Local 11 survey found that 53% of its members had moved in the past five years or will move in the near future due to housing costs. A survey conducted this summer by the Culinary Union of Eataly Las Vegas employees found that one-third of respondents did not have enough money to cover rent or food.
While not on strike, hotel workers in Arizona are also protesting what they say are unfair wages. And earlier this week, workers in Hawaii held a rally to demand their employer, the Ilikai Hotel, offer a fair contract, according to Hawaii News Now.
Another unionizing effort on the Strip was successful earlier this summer, with The Venetian’s valets and traffic control workers voting to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in June.