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Howard Stutz

Casino giants lengthen collective agreements with union

1 June 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- MGM Mirage became the first casino operator to extend its collective bargaining agreement with the state's largest labor union beyond last night's expiration date.

Harrah's Entertainment officials confirmed later Thursday that it had also agreed to a contract extension.

Contracts covering some 50,000 Strip and downtown hotel-casino workers represented by Culinary Workers Union Local 226 expired at midnight despite months of negotiations between the labor organization casino management.

Union leaders said earlier this week they would continue to hold talks with both the large casino companies and smaller casino operators.

MGM Mirage, which has about 21,000 workers covered under the union agreements, said it would extend the current collective bargaining agreement with its employees until new contracts are settled. Under the extension, any pay raises will be retroactive starting with today.

"This is welcome news and should put our employees at ease while these important contract talks continue," MGM Mirage Senior Vice President of Human Resources Cindy Kiser Murphey said in an e-mail sent late Wednesday night to MGM Mirage executives. "Negotiations are ongoing. Many subjects have been successfully settled. MGM Mirage is committed to the resolution of the remaining issues, and conclusion of a mutually beneficial contract as soon as possible."

Murphey said the union presented its first economic proposal to MGM Mirage management Wednesday.

The five-year agreements between the Culinary and some of the gaming industry's largest casinos cover wages, benefits, health care plans and worker training.

With MGM Mirage, however, the biggest hindrance to a new deal has been language that would allow the Culinary to freely organize workers on development projects where the company has a joint venture agreement.

Union leaders in February called for early negotiations in an effort to reach new agreements in a corporate landscape that had changed since the two sides last bargained in 2002. Several gaming companies were absorbed by competitors while several casinos went through ownership and management changes. Harrah's, for example, is being bought out in $17 billion private equity deal.

MGM Mirage shares rose 31 cents, or 0.39 percent, Thursday to close at $79.53 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Casino giants lengthen collective agreements with union is republished from