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First picket on Las Vegas Strip in 10 years begins

By Hannah Dreier

Associated Press


LAS VEGAS >> Sin City's largest, most powerful union began picketing the Las Vegas Strip on today for the first time in a decade.

Culinary Union spokeswoman Yvanna Cancela said labor leaders have stalled on major issues with Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas owner Deutsche Bank after 18 months of negotiations to establish a contract. At issue are wages, health care and job security.

The 2-year-old Cosmopolitan, which was built by the German investment bank after its original developer defaulted, is one of just a handful of non-unionized casinos on the Strip. A majority of Cosmopolitan service workers signed cards in 2010 saying they wanted representation. The union is calling the one-day protest an informational picket.

Culinary Union members enjoy free health care and a living wage. Housekeepers in most Strip hotels start at $16 an hour and receive a pension.

Cosmopolitan service employees have proposed a wage freeze in negotiations, but neither party has agreed to it. If a contract were approved, they would be the largest group of organized Deutsche Bank employees outside of Germany, according to a union press release.

Cosmopolitan spokeswoman Amy Rossetti said the company understands that workers have a right to picket.

"The Cosmopolitan has been negotiating in good faith and will continue to do so," she said in a statement.

The 54,000 member union has not picketed the Strip since 2003, when it was seeking to represent workers at the Aladdin, which is now the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

Christopher Eck, who works as a server at one of the Cosmopolitan's 24-hour restaurants, said Deutsche Bank is loath to give workers a contract because the bank is planning its exit strategy from the Las Vegas investment it never planned to make. If workers remain non-unionized, a new owner could fire them at will or slash wages.

"With our contract, they would have to buy not only Cosmopolitan, but they'd buy its employees as well," said Eck, who has worked at Strip casinos for nine years.

Unions have long flourished in Las Vegas, making the right-to-work state one of the last bastions of labor strength.

The fast-growing Culinary Workers Local 226 famously went on strike for six years in the 1990s against a casino that resisted organizing and has since been imploded.

It now represents workers at most large Strip casinos. Exceptions include the Palazzo and Venetian, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and the Palms.

Eck said the likelihood that the Cosmopolitan will get a new owner was a main motivating factor for the picket.

"With a contract, you can actually have a life and a good income, a future for retirement and not have fear of losing your job because something gets sold," he said.

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allie wrote:
it is right and good
on January 31,2013 | 12:08PM
Bdpapa wrote:
BS these are the same people that said everyone deserves a home and went into these interest only loans and caused mass foreclosures. You, in particular, come froma non union environment should know you work for what you get. Go study for mid terms!
on January 31,2013 | 07:14PM
puamamane wrote:
Unions are for lazy people
on January 31,2013 | 12:54PM
HAJAA1 wrote:
on January 31,2013 | 03:01PM
kainalu wrote:
Actually, most of the standardized policies that exist today are concepts first introduced by Unions: hourly-wages, 40-hour work-weeks, annual-leave, overtime, equal opportunity, and pensions to start. Unions PROTECT the working-class - PERIOD! Whereas Sam Walton's unborn descendants already have their healthcare and retirement bought and paid for, most of the workers at Walmart live from paycheck to paycheck, and don't qualify for a mortgage.
on January 31,2013 | 06:20PM
serious wrote:
If I recall the last strike resulted in the casino going bankrupt so nobody won. Nevada has about the highest unemployment rate in the country and the most home for sale--get a new life.
on January 31,2013 | 02:18PM
hawaiiismyhome wrote:
Housekeepers make $16 an hour with free medical. Wow, isn't that enough?
on January 31,2013 | 04:21PM
honopic wrote:
Read it again. Those are the unionized workers. Non-union workers make a lot less, with no health care and no job security. Which would you choose to be? And for those who claim "unions are for lazy people" think how you'd feel slaving away for minimum wage, no benefits and one paycheck away from getting kicked out the door. Lazy or hard-working, you'd have no say in the matter.
on January 31,2013 | 05:35PM
puamamane wrote:
Most non-union workers I know make a lot more than minimum wage, have great health care through the company they work for, but work much more than 40 hours, have no pensions (but put into company's 401K), make no overtime, and, like you said, no job security - because they have to produce or they get fired! Easy to work only 40 hours with mandatory breaks and no worries about getting fired, I know so many union guys who slack off, get massages and have BBQ's during the work day or night (Boeing employees). So on 1 side, you have the protection of the Unions, and on the other side, hard working producers with no one to protect them but their own capabilities.
on January 31,2013 | 07:36PM
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