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Alana Roberts

Workers Reject Mandalay Proposal

17 December 2004

LAS VEGAS -- About 320 maintenance workers at three Mandalay Resort Group properties voted to reject a two-tier wage and benefit contract offer from the company and could strike as soon as Wednesday.

Voting began Thursday and ended this morning; 214 voted to reject the Mandalay offer.

Only 53 voted to accept it.

The workers are represented by the Operating Engineers Local 501, and work at the Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus.

The proposal offered new members $2.50 an hour less than the $21.69 an hour the properties' journeymen would make in the first year of the Mandalay contract, George Scott, business manager of Local 501, said. Both tiers of workers would get 85 cent raises in each year of the five-year contract.

The proposal was made with the help of a mediator with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

"As an organization, we can not afford to give Mandalay this deal," Scott said. "It gives them too much of an unfair advantage over the other properties we have contracts with." Scott said the union is planning to give the company five-days written notice to strike today. The company also has the option of giving the union a five-days written notice to lock them out if it chooses to.

Mike Sloan, Mandalay senior vice president, declined to comment on the negotiations or the vote.

"We don't comment on the negotiating process," Sloan said in a voice-mail message. "We had agreed with the mediator that neither party would make any public comments. At least we are attempting to fulfill that commitment. At the appropriate time we will have a comment."

Previously Sloan said the company does have a contingency plan in place if the workers strike, but he declined to elaborate.

Scott said the company is likely to bring extra mantenance workers from its non-union properties at the Monte Carlo and Mandalay Bay. However, he said it would be difficult to replace all of the workers quickly.

"I would guess you can't go and hire 300 people overnight," Scott said. "I would guess they'll try to put some sort of skeleton crew together to try and keep things up and running."

The workers already gave the union the go-ahead to strike during a vote held in September, if the company doesn't rescind its offer of a two-tier wage structure. The workers rejected a similar proposal in July that would have offered new workers $3 an hour less than the current journeymen, who make $21 an hour. They have been working under an indefinite contract extension since late March, when their previous contract expired.

The union wants Mandalay Resort Group to accept a single-tier contract offer similar to one reached with other Strip properties this year. The union has reached agreements with Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Las Vegas Hilton, Riviera, Bally's, Harrah's, Sahara, Tropicana, New Frontier and the Jockey Club. That agreement includes a $4.30 hourly increase in wages and benefits over the five-year life.

The union represents about 1,800 workers in the Las Vegas Valley that work at many Strip and downtown casinos, as well as several hospitals, laundry service companies and at Bechtel Nevada. The workers perform maintenance functions on the casinos' heating and cooling systems, inside and outside lighting and slot machines, along with a variety of other maintenance functions, Scott said.

The workers also do regular maintenance on the amusement rides at the Adventure Dome at Circus Circus, the tram that connects Mandalay Resort Group and Excalibur and the beam of light at the Luxor. Circus Circus will be hard pressed to maintain proper maintenance at the Adventure Dome, although the property will try to keep everything up and running, Scott predicted.

If there aren't qualified workers there performing daily maintenance inspections the park can't operate, he said. Ron Lynn, building official with Clark County, said the park's current maintenance staff is good. Lynn said according to Clark County's building code, it doesn't matter if the workers are unionized or not, just as long as they're qualified to perform the work.

"Now the owner has the ability to train other people," Lynn said. "They have to be adequately trained."

Workers at Thursday evening's voting session said they are prepared for a strike if necessary. Charles Garner, a union member who has worked at the Luxor for 7 1/2 years said he is prepared for the strike.

"I put my finances in order," Garner said. "I started putting money away in January. During the last contract I saw the way they were acting, that this was going to happen."

"We need to stand our ground," Michael McGuire, a member who has worked at Circus Circus for 22 years, said he is against the company's contract proposal.

"When I started we were with the construction wage. Construction wage is $38 an hour. We are skilled labor, there is no reason not to pay us as being skilled labor as we deserve."