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Arnold M. Knightly

Caesars dealers petition for union vote

9 November 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- What started in the dealer pits at Wynn Las Vegas has migrated down the Strip to Caesars Palace.

The casino dealers at the Strip property have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a representation vote to unionize under Las Vegas Dealers Local 721, an affiliate of the Transport Workers Union of America, the union announced Thursday.

Harry Lombardo, executive vice president of Transport Workers Union, said the union will not file for a vote until a significant number of workers fill out cards requesting representation.

He did not say how many of the casino's 565 dealers filled out cards.

"We have a policy at the TWU that we don't file petitions unless we have great confidence that interest is at a level where we will have success," he said.

Joseph Carbon, an organizer for the union, said it will take 24 to 42 days from Monday, when the petition was filed, to receive an answer from the labor board.

The union said it has received cards from dealers at other properties around Clark County but is not ready launch organization efforts anywhere else.

Don Anderson, a dealer at the property for nearly 15 years, said workers' concerns include Caesars Palace's failure to have a clear channel so workers can address their concerns with management over health benefits, wages, job security and seniority.

"We kind of feel like we're on a desert island," he said. "No one to hear our issues. We feel like, by ourselves, we can't have a voice. With the help of TWU, we will have that."

Anderson said the distance between the dealers and Caesars management has widened since the casinos became "more corporate."

"They've changed, and we need to change," he said.

Jan Jones, vice president of government relations at Caesars Palace's parent company, Harrah's Entertainment, said she understands that workers can start to feel more disconnected from management as a company grows.

However, she said the dealers would be better off discussing any concerns with their direct supervisors rather than bringing in a third party.

"It can become dispassionate and disconnected," Jones said. "The outcome can be accomplished working within the company."

Brian Bixby, a dealer at Caesars for nearly 20 years, said the issue that raised workers' ire at Wynn also stirred concern among dealers at the Harrah's resort.

In September 2006, developer Steve Wynn announced that certain managers and casino supervisors would be added to the list of employees who qualify to share in the casino's often-times lucrative tip pool.

The move set off a move to organize the dealers at the property.

Jones said Harrah's Entertainment does not now support the practice of sharing tokes, although she added that the dealers' actions could someday change that policy.

"However, if all of a sudden we're in negotiations with an intermediary, you can't guarantee that would be the policy because you have to be competitive in negotiations," Jones said about tip sharing.

The Las Vegas Dealers union now represents Wynn dealers after workers voted by a margin 444-149 in May to unionize.

The union is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and represents 130,000 workers across the country in mass transportation, airlines, railroads, utilities, higher education and municipalities.

Lombardo, lead negotiator at the Wynn talks, said the union held its ninth negotiations with Wynn's negotiators on Thursday. He described the process as 'slow' but said both sides will meet again in December.