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Arnold M. Knightly

Mission possible: Strike averted

13 November 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Just hours before workers were scheduled to walk off the job, Mission Industries struck a tentative agreement Monday afternoon with the Culinary union on a new contract for the company's nearly 1,560 laundry workers.

The contract deal, which was reached less than an hour into the parties' third negotiation in two weeks, is scheduled for a ratification vote today and ends the threat of what could have been the first Culinary strike in Las Vegas in five years.

Details of the new accord were not available pending ratification.

Culinary Local 226 late Monday released a statement applauding the deal, saying the laundry workers will now have "a great health plan and a voice on the job."

The major sticking point in the negotiations had been that the union wanted the company to put its workers under the Culinary health plan.

Mission Industries could not be reached for comment on the tentative agreement before press time.

The laundry workers at Mission's five local plants were scheduled to walk off the job at 3 a.m. today if an agreement had not been reached.

"We've had a long-standing relationship with Mission Industries," said Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson, whose company receives service from Mission at nine properties. "We're glad they reached an agreement with the union."

Mission services nearly 50 hotel casinos throughout the valley, providing sheets, pillow covers and towels, tablecloths and napkins at restaurants and dry cleaning services for uniforms.

Bill Lerner, a gaming analyst with Deutsche Bank, said the agreement is good for the hotels and their customers.

"It is certainly good news," he said. "But it is consistent with what we've seen with other resolutions to organized labor disputes. It's positive and it's amicable."

The laundry company had said it could not afford to offer the union health plan because it cost twice as much as its current plan.

Last week, after the union's deadline to reach an agreement with Mission Industries expired, the company's negotiators asked the union to give it another week to try to renegotiate customer contracts to pay for the health plan.

The Culinary's health plan, long the cornerstone of all the union's negotiations, doesn't require out-of-pocket payments from workers.

The laundry workers current health plan provides limited coverage for workers and their children but an additional charge is required for spouses. It also includes coverage caps.

On Nov. 1, the union canceled the temporary contract its plant workers had been under since October 2006.

Later that day, the workers and the union began three days of picketing outside hotels on the Strip and downtown.

The tentative contract would be the first between Mission Industries and the Culinary union, which took over the contract after the Culinary's 2004 merger with UNITE.

The Culinary union represents more than 60,000 workers, including hotel and casino workers in Clark County and industrial laundry plants.

The Culinary union and Bartenders Union Local 165, which are still negotiating with the Tropicana, Golden Gate, Jerry's Nugget and Binion's, have not set cancellation dates for other ongoing talks.