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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson

Jeff Simpson has some good news and bad news for Wynn dealers who support a union

16 April 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- For Wynn Las Vegas dealers interested in joining a union as a way to reverse the property's tip-sharing policy, there was good news and bad news last week.

The good news is that more than enough dealers signed cards tabbing the Transport Workers Union to represent them, and the dealers submitted those signatures to the National Labor Relations Board. Lawyers for the union and Wynn Las Vegas will soon meet with the labor relations board, and an election date should be set to take place in six to 10 weeks.

The bad news for the dealers is that the union they've chosen to represent them is the TWU.

I covered the TWU's efforts in 2001 to organize dealers at Strip resorts. The union was defeated in its attempt to organize workers at Treasure Island, Excalibur, Monte Carlo, MGM Grand, Riviera, Bally's, New York-New York and the Las Vegas Hilton, and won elections at Tropicana, Stratosphere and New Frontier.

The organizers for the TWU in 2001 seemed like good guys, folks earnestly working to get some job security for the men and women who toss the cards and push the dice.

But their effort fizzled, with the only lasting result a contract with the New Frontier.

And from a worker's perspective, that deal has got to be one of the worst union contracts ever.

Not only does it agree to a wage freeze at the minimum wage, but its job security measures are totally lame.

The New Frontier contract is clear on the disciplining and firing of dealers for deficiencies or misconduct in dealing cards, handling dice, operating gaming equipment, collecting losing bets, as well as customer service and relations with supervisors and fellow employees .

Management has complete discretion to determine whether a violation occurred and the degree of discipline to impose.

If the union files a grievance contesting the dealer's discipline, the final decision is made by the New Frontier's human resources manager.

Makes you wonder what the point of the union is.

The original contract that expired in 2005 was extended twice, and now expires next April.

Based on the response I got to a column I wrote in sister publication In Business Las Vegas, I expect the Wynn dealers to vote in favor of union representation by the TWU.

Dozens of Wynn dealers called and e-mailed me to express their anger at my In Business column. It argued against passage of Assembly Bill 357, which would prohibit supervisors from receiving a share of tips given to frontline workers.

They dispute Steve Wynn's contention that the Wynn dealers remain the Strip's - and the world's - highest-paid dealers, and are spitting mad about Wynn's contention that the former floormen and boxmen, now called service team leaders, provide service to customers and should receive a share of the tip pool. Floormen receive 40 percent of a dealer's share and boxmen receive 20 percent.

"We're the ones that put the tips in the boxes," they say. "It's our money."

The dealers were also unhappy with my prediction that the bill stands no chance of passing the Assembly and Senate, with many furious about what they see as a political system stacked in favor of Wynn and other resort operators.

The dealers can't do much about Nevada politics, the makeup of the Legislature or the occupant of the Governor's Mansion until future elections.

But they'll almost certainly get a chance to vote for union representation in the very near future.

Too bad for them it will be a vote for the TWU.