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Arnold M. Knightly

Wynn Vegas, dealers union remain stalled

24 March 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Representatives from Wynn Las Vegas and the dealers union will be facing the issue of "just cause" when they return to the bargaining table today.

Wynn Las Vegas attorney Greg Kamer said the resort is not willing to relinquish the final say of a firing to a third party, while the union claims the impasse is another stalling tactic employed by the resort.

"When it comes to a gaming employee at a high-end property who is making decisions and actions potentially at $300,000 a hand, if the decision is wrong, is the dealer making a mistake or are they in cahoots with the player," Kamer said. "We have a pretty good sense of when people are making mistakes, or when they are acting improperly."

Union director Joseph Carbon said Wynn Las Vegas is being "ridiculous" in fighting the "just cause" provision, claiming the resort is using it to derail negotiations.

"Just cause doesn't mean we support people stealing," Carbon said. "If you can prove that somebody's doing something of that nature then you prove it and it will stick. The way they want to operate is they want to have complete control over their employees."

"Just cause," is a progressive discipline practice favored by the union that could have disciplinary actions, including firings, reviewed by a third-party arbitrator.

Jeff Waddoups, an associate professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said a "just cause" clause is a union standard in nearly every labor agreement in the United States.

"That is a huge benefit for most workers," Waddoups said. "If you don't have a just-cause agreement in your contract, then you're essentially an at-will employee, so you can be fired for anything."

Today's meeting and another scheduled for Thursday will be the 34th and 35th negotiating sessions since May 2007, when dealers voted by nearly a 3-to-1 margin in favor of representation from Las Vegas Dealers Local 721.

Beyond the disagreement over "just cause," the dealer's tips issue remains unresolved.

Two Wynn Las Vegas dealers who filed a class action lawsuit in 2006 to end a tip-pooling program implemented at the Strip casino lost their case in October before the Nevada Supreme Court.

Wynn Las Vegas on Sept. 1, 2006, began allowing table-game supervisors to share in the tips earned by dealers. Wynn executives said the move was done to correct the widening disparity between the wages earned by dealers and their supervisors.

Negotiations between Wynn and the union resume a week after four of the nation's largest labor unions announced a pact to restart stalled talks with casinos in Las Vegas, New Jersey, Indiana and Connecticut.

The Gaming Workers' Council was formed by the United Auto Workers, the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union and the Transport Workers Union, the parent of the local dealers union.

The coalition's goal is to put the combined muscle of 15 million union members behind casino unionization drives across the country.

The TWU last worked to organize dealers at 11 casinos in 2001 but was largely unsuccessful.

Dealers at the Tropicana, Stratosphere and the New Frontier approved union representation, although the only contract that was signed covered 105 dealers at the New Frontier.

The dealers union is also continuing to negotiate with Caesars Palace, where dealers approved union representation in December 2007.

Jan Jones, senior vice president of communication and government relations for Caesars' parent Harrah's Entertainment, said both sides are working through the issues.

"We've been meeting with them regularly," Jones said. "In any negotiation there will be areas you need to iron out. That is the art of negotiation."