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November 22, 2014

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Union workers considering strike at nearly all downtown casinos

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Yasmina Chavez

Culinary Workers Union Local 226 members make their voices heard outside the downtown casinos on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012.

Updated Tuesday, March 18, 2014 | 12:51 p.m.

Las Vegas hotel workers are weighing whether to authorize union leaders to call a strike at nearly all downtown casinos and several independent Strip properties.

The Culinary Union has been negotiating with 12 independent hotel-casinos since contracts expired last summer. The sites employ about 10,000 union workers.

In February, members voted to end a contract extension that had been put in place in June, meaning workers can now strike and picket outside workplaces. The union previously approved a dues increase to create a financial cushion in case a walkout occurs.

The Culinary Union is the largest union in Nevada. It plans to hold a strike authorization vote on March 27. However, the vote has been postponed twice.

The downtown casinos involved in the negotiations are the D, Four Queens, Las Vegas Club, Plaza, Fremont, Golden Nugget, Golden Gate, Binion's, Main Street Station and El Cortez. Other casinos without new contracts are the LVH, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, and Margaritaville.

Several casino companies have already settled, including MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp., which together control a majority of properties on the Strip. Four independent casinos — Stratosphere, Riviera, Tropicana, and Treasure Island — have also settled.

The new contracts preserve health benefits and add new measures to protect housekeepers from hazardous work conditions. The deals also aim to bring back workers laid off when restaurants closed during the recession — in part by letting casinos pay new hires less in those venues.

The contracts cover all aspects of the casinos, including the food and beverage, housekeeping, cocktails, and bell departments.

The Culinary Union has seen rapid growth, defying nationwide trends for organized labor. Las Vegas has not seen a strike since 1991, when workers picketed the Frontier casino for more than six years.

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