Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 | 2:13 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 | 4:40 p.m.
Several hundred people picketed Thursday in front of the Cosmopolitan, where workers say ownership has failed to come to the negotiating table prepared to discuss larger contract issues such as seniority and health care.
The Culinary Union Local 226 organized the protest, the first time the union has picketed a Strip property in a decade, to spur Cosmopolitan owners Deutsche Bank to accelerate negotiations, union representatives said.
Workers at the Cosmopolitan chose to unionize via a card check 18 months ago, representatives of the Culinary Union said, and while negotiations have covered what the union considers to be more minor issues, the more substantive talks have yet to occur.
“We feel we have been negotiating for long enough and now is the time to get a contract,” said Chris Eck, a server at the Cosmopolitan. “We’ve agreed on small issues, but we still need to discuss guaranteed work weeks, health care benefits and other matters.”
Eck said he was on a company health plan that deducts payments from his check, but he lost that health coverage because his hours slipped just below the 30 hours per week average needed each quarter to qualify for the plan.
“With a union contract we would have guaranteed work weeks, and I would have the option of paying to make up the difference in my hours so I would still get health coverage,” Eck said.
Picketers turned out between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday, and another protest was scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. As the crowd grew, two picket lines formed, one on the sidewalk passing in front of the Cosmopolitan and one in a lane of Las Vegas Boulevard that was closed off by Metro Police.
Eventually picketers stood on the pedestrian bridge at Harmon and Las Vegas Boulevard where onlookers also gathered to see what was happening.
Picketers carried signs that said “No Justice, No Peace” in English on one side and Spanish on the other side. The protesters chanted, beat drums and occasionally received support from honking motorists headed down Las Vegas Boulevard.
Protesters also handed out orange fliers in English and Spanish that outlined some of the workers’ grievances. The flier compared the “union standard” to conditions at the Cosmopolitan. The Culinary Union is fighting for language in the contract that clearly stipulates a housekeeper’s workload and expectations, full health care coverage, a guaranteed work week, protections for seniority and if the property changes ownership, a pension plan and other provisions.
“I love my job, but I want what everybody else gets,” said Michelle DiManso, a cashier at the Cosmopolitan’s Wicked Spoon. “I believe they’ve been stalling when it comes to addressing the big issues.”
Reached for comment, the Cosmopolitan referenced a previously issued statement.
"We understand that it is the union's right to picket," Amy Rossetti, Cosmopolitan vice president of public relations, said in a statement. "The Cosmopolitan has been negotiating in good faith and will continue to do so."
Suzan Jorgensen, who was in town from Michigan for a convention and was staying at Mandalay Bay, said she would not go to the Cosmopolitan because of the protest.
“It’s important how you treat your workers,” Jorgensen, a union member herself, said. “They have families too, and these employees are the backbone of these businesses. If they have voted to join the union, they should get the same deal as other Strip workers get.”
The Cosmopolitan is one of the few Strip properties where workers do not currently have a contract. The only Strip, or near-Strip, casinos where the Culinary Union does not represent workers are the Quad, the Palazzo, the Venetian, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the Palms. Workers at those resorts have not asked to join the union.
The last time the Culinary Union picketed on the Strip was 2003, when it was locked in negotiations with the former Aladdin, which is now Planet Hollywood.
The Culinary Union is the largest in Nevada, representing 60,000 members including housekeeping, food and beverage and other service staff.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas dares to be different. From the hotel’s red reservations desks to fine art found throughout the resort, The Cosmopolitan’s signature style is helping to pave its own path on the Las Vegas Strip.
Upon entering the resort, you’re greeted by pillars of video boards playing video art by Digital Kitchen and David Rockwell Studio exclusively produced for The Cosmopolitan. Just beyond that, you’ll find all your favorite casino games on the resort’s 100,000-square-foot casino floor.
The Cosmopolitan’s rooms standout as the resort’s most unique feature. About 2,220 of The Cosmopolitan’s 2,995 rooms have 6-foot deep terraces that span the length of the room, a first at a modern Strip hotel. Other in-room amenities include soaking tubs, kitchenettes and quirky accessories like artsy coffee table books.
The dining experience at The Cosmopolitan isn’t something you’ll find at other Strip resorts, either. All of The Cosmopolitan’s 13 restaurateurs are new to the Las Vegas market. You’ll find American steakhouse fare in a modern setting at STK, top-notch sushi at Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill and the freshest fish flown in from the Mediterranean daily at Estiatorio Milos.
Whether the sun is up or down, Marquee Nightclub & Dayclub is the place to find the party at The Cosmopolitan. The venue is a dayclub/nightclub, complete with a pool and cabanas outside and three different rooms with three different vibes inside.
If nightclubs aren’t your thing, you can grab a drink at one of The Cosmopolitan’s five other bars, like The Chandelier, which is encased in 2 million dripping crystals.