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Howard Stutz

Union Workers Reject Mandalay Contract Plan

20 December 2004

Union-backed maintenance workers at three Mandalay Resort Group properties could walk off their jobs as soon as Wednesday after the latest contract offer was overwhelmingly rejected in voting that ended Friday.

Should the 320 workers, members of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 501, strike at Circus Circus, Luxor and Excalibur, they could be permanently replaced by management, union officials said.

"The fact was explained to the membership, but they were resolved in rejecting the contract offer," George Scott, business representative of Local 501, said about the 214-to-53 vote to turn down the proposal. "I'm not sure when our members would strike. We are still tossing around a time frame."

Scott was expected to deliver a letter to Mandalay Resort Group management Friday afternoon, notifying the company the union would sever the current contract extension that began in March when contracts covering the workers expired.

Under the contract language, a strike can take place five calendar days after the letter is delivered.

Also, management could notify the workers that they will be locked out of their jobs.

Mandalay Resort Group executive Mike Sloan, who is representing the company in the matter, couldn't be reached Friday. However, he has said before that a federal mediator had precluded both sides from discussing the matter and that he wouldn't negotiate the dispute in the media.

Representatives from the union and Mandalay Resort Group met several times with a federal mediator in an effort to break a deadlock. The union sought federal mediation after the workers voted 155-67 in September to authorize a strike in an effort to resolve wage and benefit issues.

Although the strike vote was taken, the union agreed to extend the expired contract while negotiations continued.

"There are no other negotiations planned, so at this time, our members have authorized a strike," Scott said. "When that will happen will be considered shortly."

Scott said if the maintenance workers at the Circus Circus Adventuredome walk off their jobs, Clark County officials may halt operation of several of he theme park's rides because of safety concerns.

Ron Lynn, a Clark County building official, said the company is required to have maintenance workers handle daily, weekly and monthly safety checks of different rides.

"We're sensitive to these type of issues, so if we have any type of strike activity, we'll monitor the matter closely," Lynn said, adding that management hadn't informed him of an impending work stoppage as of Friday.

Workers rejected a Mandalay-proposed two-tier wage-and-benefits structure, with the first tier covering current employees and the second tier covering new hires.

Earlier this year, Local 501 completed contract negotiations for a new five-year agreement with other properties covered by the contract, which are: Bally's, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, Harrah's Las Vegas, the Jockey Club, Las Vegas Hilton, Riviera, Sahara and Tropicana.

A union representative said the 780 Local 501 workers at the other properties agreed to about $4.30 an hour increase in wages and benefits.

Should the members of Local 501 strike, it's doubtful other unions, including members of Culinary Local 226, will join them in honoring the picket lines. Language in those contracts prohibit secondary walkouts.

"That's something we understand because the language in all the contracts up and down the Strip is pretty similar," Scott said.