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Howard Stutz

Maintain wages, benefits, Culinary workers say

12 February 2013

LAS VEGAS -- That was the overriding theme from three Strip and downtown casino workers as Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 enter into contract talks with much of the Las Vegas hotel-casino industry.

Several thousand union members convened Monday in meetings at Cashman Center in different sessions to discuss the upcoming contract talks.

Five-year collective bargaining agreements expire June 1 at Strip resorts operated by MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Inc., and with downtown Las Vegas casinos.

Several other casinos, including the Tropicana, Riviera, LVH, Stratosphere and Treasure Island, also have contracts expiring.

Contracts covering the two Wynn Resorts properties expire in 2015 while new contract talks with The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas have stalled.

For now, members of the union's negotiating committees repeated the same mantra: maintain the current wages and benefits package.

"That's our primary goal," said Dunnunique Ahmad, who has been employed in the housekeeping department at CityCenter's Aria since the property opened in 2009. "We're together in that effort."

Beverly Hoffrichter, a 28-year cocktail server at the downtown casino that is now known as the D Las Vegas, said she was encouraged by the support for her fellow workers.

"We're all working to keep what we have," she said. "We're staying positive in these contract talks."

Union members were given pep talks by local and national labor leaders, including UNITE HERE President D. Taylor, who will lead the contract negotiations along with Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Geocanda Arguello-Kline.

Last year, the union settled an economic extension package with employers on the Strip.

Several downtown properties have not reached an agreement.

"We've had two rallies downtown," Hoffrichter said. The D Las Vegas has settled the economic extension package.

"I think those rallies showed how strong we are in this effort," she said.

Rio employee Gloria Delgado called Monday's meetings "an important day for all workers in Las Vegas. It's the beginning of negotiations that will affect thousands of people."

Ahmad, while hopeful the contract discussions will be smooth, said the economic extension package talks had some difficulties.

"We may see some large labor disputes in Las Vegas and maybe even some strikes," he said. "We will fight to protect our good contracts."

MGM Resorts issued a response to the pending contract talks late Monday afternoon.

"MGM Resorts properties have enjoyed a long partnership with the members of the Culinary union. We view our upcoming contract negotiations as an opportunity for both sides to address important issues and discuss how we maintain our common recovery from unprecedented economic circumstances. Most important, we'll establish how we can constructively continue this mutually beneficial relationship," spokesman Gordon Absher said in an e-mailed statement.
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