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LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A weekend vote by dealers at an Atlantic City casino supporting union representation encouraged officials hoping to organize dealers at Wynn Las Vegas.
Union representatives have been circulating a card-signing campaign at the Strip resort since the end of January hoping to gather enough names to back a National Labor Relations Board-sanctioned vote.
Jack Lipsman, vice president of the International Union of Gaming Employees, said the organization, which now has no contracts, is expected to partner with the Transport Workers Union of America in the effort to organize Wynn dealers.
Lipsman said the cards may have to be re-signed to reflect an affiliation with the Transport Workers, a New York-based union affiliated with the AFL-CIO that represents workers in mass transportation, airlines, railroads, utilities, high education and municipalities.
He believes Wynn dealers will soon get to vote on union representation. Since September, dealers at Wynn have been in a dispute with management over a change in how the casino pools and divides tips.
"When you see the vote in Atlantic City, it gives you hope," Lipsman said. "Once Wynn goes, others will follow."
In New Jersey, dealers at Caesars Atlantic City approved unionization with the United Auto Workers by a 572-128 vote. The UAW represents workers at three casinos in Detroit. In a statement, the union said dealers at several other Atlantic City casinos are involved in organizing efforts. Dealers at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City are expected to vote on dealer representation on March 31.
A spokeswoman for Harrah's Entertainment, which owns Caesars and three other Atlantic City casinos told the Press of Atlantic City the gaming company will challenge the voting results, claiming the union threatened employees to vote for unionization.
Lipsman said the vote by Caesars workers sent a positive signal to other casino employees. The vote was the first time in 25 years that dealers in an Atlantic City casino had voted for union representation; four other times, the votes failed.
"This is a major casino and the UAW is a very powerful union with expertise in casinos," Lipsman said. "Obviously, we're very happy with what has taken place."
A spokesman for the Transport Workers Union said the organizer for the International Union of Gaming Employees was traveling Monday and unavailable for comment. Six years ago, the union tried to organize dealers at 13 local different casinos. Unionization votes passed at three of the casinos, but the effort was eventually dropped.
Lipsman said Wynn is the only Las Vegas casino where dealers are now being targeted by the organizing campaign.
The union focused its efforts on Wynn after dealers objected to a company decision to add certain managers to the list of those who qualify to share in the casino's often-times lucrative tip pool. Wynn dealers said that before the tip-pooling program was started, they could earn $100,000 or more annually.
Wynn Las Vegas management said it started the new policy to correct a pay disparity that had dealers earning more than the people supervising them. Critics argued Wynn Las Vegas should raise managers' pay, not broaden the tip pool. Dealers say the change is costing them as much as $20,000 per year.
The dispute prompted complaints by dealers to the state labor commissioner, small sidewalk protests outside the casino, and a lawsuit by two dealers.
Last week, Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Henderson, introduced a bill in the Legislature that would prohibit employers from exercising any control over how tips are divided and who can participate in the pool.
In January, Wynn's general counsel said the hotel wouldn't interfere with the union drive, but he questioned the union's motives.
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