Talk of a strike unlikely to gain traction

The Culinary Union says its members will take a strike vote this month to prepare workers for the worst-case scenario against 16 casinos that have yet to sign contracts with some 10,000 workers.

But could it really come to a strike?

Considering the Culinary’s track record and steady diet of warnings, it seems unlikely. The strike vote seems a common plot point in the union’s storied negotiation process. It’s one defined by the tremendous pressure it heaps on business partners.

Representing 50,000 hospitality employees in Sin City, the hard-nosed labor camp last month voted to kill contract extensions with the casinos, including haunts such as the D, Golden Nugget and Stratosphere.

The extensions served as the casinos’ only protection, legally prohibiting a strike. Now, the Culinary is moving forward with the strike vote; a majority nod would allow it to call up a strike against any — or all — casinos involved.

We’ve heard this rhetoric many times before.

In 2007, the union ended contract extensions with MGM Resorts International, the straggler in that round of negotiations. In this round of contract chats, MGM emerged as the leader, inking the first deal of the bunch in November.

It was not sealed without challenges from the union.

In September, the Culinary put out its first strike warning. MGM and Caesars Entertainment — the Strip’s flagship operators — made it through negotiations without a strike.

It took MGM two months after the warning to secure a deal, its last meeting with the Culinary lasting 18 hours.

Caesars took four months. The companies, which signed deals guaranteeing health insurance for employees, have more than 30,000 workers between them.

Because the straggler casinos this time cover only about 10,000 workers, a strike seems like a stretch. The likelihood becomes dimmer when you consider the history of strikes in Las Vegas.

In 1984, 17,000 Culinary workers struck against 32 resorts. By the end, the union got contracts with 15 of the properties and failed to sign with the others, giving up $70 million in lost wages and benefits.

The last major strike in Las Vegas started in September 1991 with a common protest outside the Frontier.

It became the longest strike in U.S. history.

In all, 550 Culinary workers held a 24-hour picket line outside the casino for six years, four months and 10 days. The strike finally ended Jan. 31, 1998.

Nothing has come close since. It’s a safe bet it’ll stay that way.

Tags: Opinion, Business