Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2014

Union vote blank check to leaders:

Bramlet calls Strip strike

Three Hotels Will Feel First Pinch; Others Late Today

Three major gambling resorts on the Las Vegas Strip were picketed shortly after midnight Wednesday and within 24 hours union leaders say 15 of the major resorts will be closed due to a massive walkout of the Culinary and Bartenders unions.

Al Bramlet, president of the executive board of the unions, said following the third of a series of mass membership meetings:

"There is no doubt whatsoever we are in for a long strike."

Union members were told that pickets would be placed at three hotels after midnight and the lines would be spread to all of the other hotels as the rank and file membership was notified of picketing assignments.

The joint membership gave union leaders an overwhelming vote of confidence of 11,601 to 317 in rejecting management's last offer and approving a strike.

The union negotiating committee and union captains met late into the night planning last minute strategy.

About the same time the last membership meeting got underway a bomb threat at the Culinary Union Hall was reported. Police and fire units rushed to the scene but no bomb was found. The building was evacuated and the night staff sent home.

A suspicious package was found near the union's switchboard inside the building and the Sheriff's bomb squad place it in its specially-built "blast tube."

The suspicious package, however, turned out to be a set of baby clothes slated for an expectant mother at her baby shower this week.

Sheriff's deputies and firemen took protective cover in the union hall's parking lot as the package was gingerly unwrapped. The all-clear was given when the man unwrapping the package lifted out a tiny play-suit and several diapers.

One hotel executive said rather than try to operate with management and unorganized casino personnel that the major hotels would shut down for the duration of the strike. Union officials said such action would constitute an illegal lockout.

But some hotels stocked large stores of beverages and food. Some key management personnel in hotels were booked into hotel guest rooms in the event of a strike.

Dick Danner, general manager of the Frontier Hotel, one of six hotels and casinos in Las Vegas owned by Howard Hughes said, "Our instructions are to try and stand pat. We are not canceling any room reservations. We are not canceling any shows."

Danner added that if a strike were to occur, "we would be primarily concerned with security and the well being of our guests."

A culinary workers and bartenders strike would empty the hotels of all maids, waitresses, bartenders, barboys, busboys, cooks, waiters, chefs and all kitchen personnel.

Other craft union members would be expected to honor picket lines set up by the strikers.

A check with virtually all maitre d's in Strip hotel showrooms an hour before the midnight deadline revealed none planned to cancel their midnight shows. They said they had no official word of any strike action.

Amidst rumors and unconfirmed reports was one that hotels not immediately faced with picketing and strikers would attempt to assist those under the culinary workers seige.

To this the union was reported to have responded that any hotels assisting in this manner would themselves be subject to immediate strike and picketing.

At last report, the Culinary Union's executive committee was in closed door session in the wake of the membership's vote to give it a free rein.

Representatives of the Nevada Resort Association negotiating for the hotels, said they had received no official word of the impending strike from the union.

Reports also said that the Riviera and Bonanza hotels and the Circus Circus Casino would not be affected by the strike because of earlier agreements with the union.

The last offer from management called for a 25 per cent increase in wages and fringe benefits. Bramlet said it was inadequate.

"Instead of a settlement we are miles apart," he told mass membership meetings. Bramlet said if a strike came it would not be for an hour or a few days but it will be a long one."

He blamed the stalemate on the "Big Four" who he said wanted to break the unions. He referred to the multiple ownerships of Howard Hughes, Kirk Kerkorian, Parvin Dohrmann Corp. and Del Webb. The four gambling licensees own a combined total of 14 resorts.

Picket signs were printed and union members were given assigned locations prior to the midnight expiration of the old three-year contract.

Bramlet said the Nevada Resort Association, which has been negotiating for Strip hotels since January, also wanted a strike clause eliminated from the proposed contract.

"They are asking us to sell out every other labor organization in Nevada-which we won't do," Bramlet said.

A spokesman for the Resort Association said the increases demanded by the unions would raise payroll costs more than 40 per cent.

"Granting increases demanded by the union would seriously affect all hotel operations on the Strip and could have an adverse effect on the entire community," he said.

The unions represent bartenders, cooks, restaurant waiters and captains, bellboys and casino change girls.

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