|By Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 5, 2005 - Two new contracts with Strip hotels helped Nevada's largest labor union increase its membership by almost 6,000 workers in the past couple of months.
Now, the leadership of Culinary Local 226 is setting its sights on additional growth.
The Culinary, an affiliate of UNITE HERE and its partner union, Bartenders Local 165, recently negotiated new contracts with Wynn Las Vegas and the Aladdin. Both deals were overwhelmingly approved by the employees, said union leaders.
Wynn opened in late April, while the Aladdin opened as a nonunion property in 2000 and was the site of several protests the past few years as the union sought to organize workers.
At Wynn, a 10-year agreement running through 2015 will cover 4,500 workers. At the Aladdin, approximately 1,300 employees will be covered under a contract that expires in 2007.
"From the day we assumed ownership of this property we indicated our commitment to improving and strengthening labor relations," Aladdin President Michael Mecca said.
The Aladdin was purchased out of bankruptcy last year by a Planet Hollywood-led investment group. While moving toward resurrecting the 2,567-room resort with a Planet Hollywood theme, ownership sought to end the antagonistic relationship with the union.
"By approving the contract, the workers have ensured a better standard of living for themselves and their families, including free family health care and a secure retirement," said Culinary Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor.
David Schwartz, a gaming historian at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the Culinary's success organizing the Aladdin was a significant milestone, given the property's recent history.
"The agreements also give us an idea of how the union will be moving forward in their next set of negotiations," Schwartz said.
The labor organization, which represents 60,000 cocktail servers, bartenders, food servers, cooks, guest room attendants, stewards and porters across Las Vegas, is looking at other opportunities in the area.
The two major nonunion hotels on the Strip are The Venetian and the Imperial Palace. While a long-running feud with management of The Venetian, Las Vegas Sands Corp., is no where close to resolution, employees at the Imperial Palace could soon be organized, gaming observers said.
Harrah's Entertainment, which has union contracts at its six Las Vegas resorts, announced in August it was buying the Imperial Palace for $370 million. Once that deal closes, possibly by the end of the year, a vast majority of the resort's 2,500 workers could join the Culinary.
The Culinary is in a heated battle with Station Casinos over organizing a majority of the company's 10,000 workers. The Culinary has opposed the construction of the Red Rock Resort and recently became involved in protests against Station Casinos' plans in Reno.
"There are some places that are pretty entrenched, but you look at the next stage of growth and development in Las Vegas, 2007 seems to be the next period." Schwartz said. "What happens economically between now and then could determine much of the growth."
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