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Culinary Union reaches tentative pact with Tropicana

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008 | 5:54 p.m.

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Hours after starting negotiations this morning, Culinary Union and Tropicana Entertainment reached a tentative agreement on a new contract covering about 750 workers at the Tropicana hotel and casino on the Strip.

Tropicana Entertainment Chief Executive Scott Butera said both sides entered the meeting eager to resolve the prior impasse quickly.

“We had a very good idea of what we wanted to do," he said. "Employees have been asked to endure some pretty trying circumstances over the past few years."

Butera declined to comment on specifics of the agreement, which will be presented for ratification by union members at the Tropicana Friday, Aug. 22. But he said it was mostly consistent with Culinary contracts struck last year at other Strip properties.

After months of uncertainty, the union returned to the negotiating table today to hammer out a contract with the Tropicana, which expired in May 2007.

Talks were put on hold when the company, which lost its gaming license in New Jersey last year, declared bankruptcy in May. Under pressure from bondholders, Tropicana Entertainment Chief Executive Bill Yung stepped down in June.

Yung had taken a hard line against the union, which feared rollbacks of hard-won benefits. In turn, the union had campaigned Nevada regulators to remove the company's gaming license for supposed violations of law.

Negotiations had been sporadic and unsuccessful.

Butera said he began some preliminary discussions with the union after becoming CEO.

The company’s financial difficulties factored into discussions but Butera said a new contract will be key to the property's future success.

“You can’t save your way to success,” he said. “You have to make appropriate investments and there’s not any more appropriate investment than our employees, who are on the front lines with customers every day.”

Butera is part of a newly-appointed, four-person board that received preliminary approval from the Gaming Control Board Aug. 6 to control Tropicana Entertainment as it makes its way through bankruptcy. The Nevada Gaming Commission is expected to approve the arrangement during its monthly meeting tomorrow.

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