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Tuesday's vote: Culinary's shot across gaming's bow

Inside the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV, the Culinary Union is getting ready. On Tuesday, in two shifts, tens of thousands of culinary workers from 34 resorts will come here to vote on whether or not to let their leaders call a strike.

The workers' contract ends at midnight June 1 for properties both on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown.

“For those that are new to the union in the last 10 years, they really need to pay attention, because we need to keep our benefits, we need to keep our job security,” union member Tamara Browning said last Thursday at Culinary headquarters, explaining that her job had been replaced with an app.

It’s one reason workers will come here tomorrow, and just one reason why the union is turning up the heat.

RELATED | As contract clock ticks, Culinary prepares for strike

“This wouldn't be the first time the Culinary voted to strike and didn't, but possibly used it as a bargaining chip,” said Michael Green, UNLV Associate Professor of History. “In 2002, there was a strike vote. They settled almost immediately.”

The last time the union almost pulled the trigger was 2002. The last actual city-wide Culinary strike was 1984, which lasted 67 days.

Now, 34 years later, union pressure is on, with billboards, a website, and on Tuesday, a vote. The union tells News 3 Tuesday is not for show: It says it is actively preparing for a walkout, making preparations for picket signs and picket lines.

“The strike vote doesn't necessarily mean they will go on strike,” says David Schwartz, the director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research. “Negotiations are continuing, and in the past they've usually wrapped this up with most of the companies without going on strike.”

“If history is any sign, you don’t want a strike,” says UNLV’s Green. “Back in 1976, there was a strike that lasted a couple of weeks. In '84, there was a strike that lasted a couple of months. Both of them cost millions, and that was back in the '70s and '80s. So we’re talking bigger money now, and probably bigger concerns on both sides about trying to avoid any kind of strike.”

Among the issues on the table: dislocation of workers due to technology and protecting workers from sexual harassment. Perhaps the biggest issue is the economy: It's better, and the Culinary wants a piece of the prosperity.

“Because the companies right now – they’re booming. They are doing great, and we feel great about it,” says Geoconda Arguello Kline, the Secretary Treasurer of Culinary Local 226. “We’re never asking to be rich. We never do. What we’re asking is economic package where people can protect their healthcare, protect their pension, have decent wages.”

The two biggest companies at the table are Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts. Caesars tells News 3 it is optimistic an agreement can be reached by the deadline on June 1.

“MGM Resorts and the Culinary and Bartenders Union continue to meet and have scheduled main table negotiating sessions on days following the strike vote. As we continue to bargain in good faith, we are confident that we’ll resolve contract issues and negotiate a contract that works for everyone,” says Mary Hynes, Director of Communications for MGM Resorts International.

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