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Howard Stutz

Wynn dealers near vote on union

17 April 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The National Labor Relations Board is expected to quickly schedule an election at which Wynn Las Vegas dealers can decide if they support having the union negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the resort's management.

The Transport Workers Union of America, which is hoping to organize the Wynn dealers, filed documentation for union authorization with the National Labor Relations Board.

"The union has filed a petition with sufficient support for us to proceed," Steve Wamser, the NLRB's deputy regional attorney for Las Vegas, said Monday. "We've scheduled a hearing, but we're not sure if there are any issues that would require a hearing. We plan on talking with both parties to work out an election agreement."

Union representatives said they spent less than a week collecting signed union authorization cards from an "overwhelming majority" of the eligible dealers at Wynn Las Vegas, but would not say how many workers constituted the majority. The casino employs almost 700 dealers.

The Transport Workers, a New York-based union that is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, represents 130,000 workers across the country in mass transportation, airlines, railroads, utilities, higher education and municipalities.

Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal expressed little concern Monday about a pending union authorization vote by dealers. He said the NLRB filing "is part of the exercise the company anticipated" when "a vocal minority" of the property's dealers protested a highly publicized change in how the casino pools and divides the tips earned by casino workers. The saga has dragged on for more than eight months.

In September, Wynn executives added certain managers and casino supervisors to the list of those who qualify to share in the casino's often-times lucrative tip pool. Wynn dealers said that before the tip pooling program was started, they could earn $100,000 or more annually.

Wynn Las Vegas management said it started the policy to correct a pay disparity that had dealers earning more than their supervisors. Critics argued Wynn Las Vegas should raise managers' pay, not broaden the tip pool. Dealers say the change is costing them as much as $20,000 per year.

Pascal said dealers were upset because of the decrease in their pay. However, he added, dealers at Wynn are paid more than at any other resort in Las Vegas.

"The underlying reason for instituting this change seems to have been validated," Pascal said. "We have an improved level of service, we're getting great candidates for open positions and people are still very well compensated for the job they do."

Pascal said the dealers still angry about the program "believe the only way they can overcome making less money is by organizing."

Pascal said Wynn Las Vegas is not anti-union. The resort has a lengthy contract with Culinary Workers Local 226 that expires in 2015 and "has a long history of working together constructively with the Culinary."

The dispute prompted complaints by dealers to the state labor commissioner, small sidewalk protests outside the casino and a lawsuit by two dealers. Both the complaints to the labor commissioner and the lawsuit were dismissed.

On Friday in Carson City, Assembly Bill 357, which could have ended the Wynn tip pooling arrangement, died in the Nevada Assembly's Judiciary Committee.

"It's been very disheartening with all the different letdowns along the way," said Josephine Tang, who has been a blackjack and baccarat dealer at Wynn since the resort opened in April 2005. "We're hoping the NLRB will schedule a vote shortly and by forming the union, we will be able to secure and protect our pay and benefits."

Fellow Wynn dealer Kanie Kastroll said joining the union would bring improvements.

"Our committee is made up of dealers from all backgrounds with literally hundreds of years experience from dozens of casinos," Kastroll said. "Believe me, we know what we want as dealers, and we are ready to start working toward it."

Pascal said the company knew the tips per share would decrease when the program began because the pool has more participants. However, last month's tip pooling, he said, marked the first time since September that the tips per share was a comparable figure to the same month a year ago.

"This is a trend I hope we can continue, but it just points to the benefits of the overall restructuring in the program," Pascal said.

A vote for union representation by dealers at Wynn Las Vegas could mirror a movement in Atlantic City.

Dealers at four of the New Jersey gaming community's 11 casinos petitioned in recent weeks for an election to join the United Auto Workers.

Last week, dealers at Bally's said they would seek representation by the UAW.

Two casinos held elections last month. Dealers at Caesars and the Trump Plaza voted in favor of joining UAW. Dealers at the Trump Marina are scheduled to vote on union representation May 11.

"Atlantic City is a different set of circumstances," Pascal said. "I don't believe there is a comparison."

Even if Wynn dealers vote to approve union representation, it's uncertain if a contract can be reached

In 2001, the Transport Workers Union moved to organize dealers at 13 casinos, winning elections at the Tropicana, Stratosphere and New Frontier, but was defeated at other properties.

The effort was eventually dropped.