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Howard Stutz

Raises won't deter union

28 February 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The New York-based union that is hoping to organize dealers at two MGM Mirage resorts said the company's decision to raise the base salaries of its Strip casino dealing staff won't affect the labor group's tactics.

Transport Workers Union of America officials also took credit Tuesday for the raises, where some MGM Mirage dealers will see their paychecks increase by as much as 22 percent.

"Those raises are the direct result of our organizing efforts," said Steve Roberts, an international organizer for the Transport Workers and a director of Las Vegas Dealers Local 721. "The company might have appeased some employees who were sitting on the fence from joining the union, but we're moving ahead with our plans."

Meanwhile, representatives of other hotel-casino companies said they were looking at how the new MGM Mirage pay scale might affect their own dealing staffs.

On Friday, MGM Mirage informed its more than 5,100 dealers at 10 Strip resorts that it was implementing a uniform pay structure. All dealers not earning $7.75 an hour were brought up to that pay level starting Monday. The raise affected some 60 percent of its dealing force. Dealers making more than $7.75 an hour were given a cost of living increase.

Also, full- and part-time dealers at MGM Mirage will receive cost-of-living increases every April starting in 2009.

MGM Mirage President Jim Murren said Friday the raises were not the result of any union organizing activities the Transport Workers have directed at The Mirage and Mandalay Bay. The company, which is expected to hire another 1,000 dealers in 2009 when its massive CityCenter development opens, wanted to standardize dealers' compensation.

Murren said the financial figure for the increased labor costs was more than $10 million annually based on the current job totals.

The Transport Workers, which has already organized dealers at Wynn Las Vegas and Caesars Palace, has set up Web sites targeting dealers at the two MGM Mirage resorts.

Roberts said the pay increases don't completely answer the concerns the union has heard from dealers.

"In our opinion, $7.75 across the board is really an empty sack," Roberts said. "The hotels did the same thing in 2001 to keep the unions out. It's all about power and control."

Wynn Las Vegas dealers voted in favor of union representation in May, eight months after the hotel-casino implemented a new tip pooling program that significantly reduced dealers' take-home pay.

Caesars Palace dealers voted in favor of the union in December after a five-month organizing effort. Dealers at the time expressed concerns about their pay, job security and benefits they claimed were largely ignored since the property was bought by Harrah's Entertainment in 2005.

Roberts said the union expects to have its first negotiating session with Caesars Palace representatives next week. Several negotiating sessions with Wynn Las Vegas management have yet to produce a contract.

Other casino operators said they would take a closer look at the MGM Mirage raises. Gary Thompson, a spokesman for Harrah's, which operates eight Strip casinos including Caesars Palace, said the human resources department was analyzing what the raises might mean for its company's dealers.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. spokesman Ron Reese said the company, which operates The Venetian and Palazzo resorts on the Strip, continually evaluates the pay scale for all its employee job classifications. The resorts are the largest nonunion casinos on the Strip.

"We want to be competitive and be within the top three companies on the Strip, where ever that may be," Reese said. "We believe we are No. 1 with our compensation package and medical plan."

Representatives from Wynn Las Vegas were unavailable for comment.

Boyd Gaming Corp. spokesman Rob Stillwell said the company would review what Strip dealers earn when it nears completion of its $4.8 billion Echelon project, which isn't expected to open in 2010. Until that time, the company believes its dealers in the locals market earn competitive wages compared with other casinos.

"We constantly review the pay scale of all our job positions and make adjustments when necessary to remain competitive," Stillwell said.

Raises won't deter union is republished from