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Culinary workers approve deal with Mission

14 November 2007

By Benjamin Spillman

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The people who wash the linens for Las Vegas resorts will soon get the same health benefits as the people who change the sheets.

Members of Culinary Local 226 voted Tuesday to ratify a labor deal with a firm that washes 1 million pounds of hotel and restaurant linens per day.

Approval of the deal with Mission Industries by workers came less than 24 hours after union members had planned to walk off the job in protest, a move that would have complicated how some of the biggest and poshest resorts in Las Vegas deliver clean linens to their guests.

Kevin Kline, the union's lead negotiator for talks with Mission, said the agreement is a victory for about 1,600 workers on the front lines of the hospitality industry. Vote totals were not available late Tuesday.

"People often don't think about the workers who are behind the scenes and who the customers rarely see," Kline said in a statement.

A representative from Mission Industries did not return a call for comment by deadline.

During negotiations, the union sought health benefits similar to those of organized casino and hotel employees, a group that includes bellhops, bartenders, maids and others.

Details of the agreement the union released Tuesday indicate the members got their wish.

Highlights of the new pact include:

* Mission Industries workers and their families will be eligible to join the Culinary health plan beginning April 1. The plan includes full health coverage with no premiums for workers.

* A job security package that includes new seniority rules, grievance and arbitration training, and health and safety committees.

* Provisions that protect the contract if the company is bought by another company.

Before the negotiations yielded a tentative deal on Monday, Mission had balked at the cost of the union's health plan. The company said the union plan would cost twice as much as its current health offerings. Company representatives said they would need to raise rates on clients to support the new plan. Last week, the Culinary agreed to give Mission Industries an extra week before it workers went on strike so it could negotiate with customers to accommodate the costlier benefits.

Representatives for MGM Mirage and Station Casinos, two major Mission clients, wouldn't say whether the new deal would affect their laundry rates.

Before an agreement was reached on a contract, the laundry workers were set to go out on what would have been the first Culinary strike in five years.

A strike could have affected the company's service to nearly 50 hotel-casinos on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas, although company officials had been giving customers assurances that a job action would not affect service.