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A look at Culinary Union's history and how a strike could affect Las Vegas

Posted at 1:15 PM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 20:54:13-04

If the Culinary Union votes to strike in Las Vegas, it would its first vote in 15 years and its first strike in 20 years. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nevada had 164,000 union members in 2017. Another 25,000 were represented by a union or covered by an employee association or contract while not union members themselves. Nationwide, there were 14.8 million union members. 

Of the union workers in Nevada, about 50,000 of them are part of the Culinary Union, which was first chartered in 1935, according to its website.

The Culinary Union was part of one of the longest strikes in the country from 1991 to 1998 against the Frontier hotel-casino, according to UNLV Libraries. About 550 workers took part in an around-the-clock picket outside the Frontier.  

In addition to the longest, the Culinary Union was also part of one of the largest strikes. About 17,000 workers participated in a strike in 1984 that lasted 67 days, according to the Culinary Union. According to the Associated Press, union members lost an estimated $75 million in wages. 

The last citywide strike vote took place in 2002 when most of the then 25,000 workers voted in favor of a strike. A deal was reached before a strike was officially called. 

There was a smaller strike in 2004 involving 3,000 workers with the Las Vegas Convention Center Service Providers, part of the Teamsters, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It lasted one week. 

Now, what happens if a strike actually moves forward?

If the majority of those workers vote to go on strike, that strike could happen anytime after June 1. If that happens, that could actually empty out 34 different hotels and casinos along the Las Vegas Strip as bartenders, guest room attendants, cocktail servers, food servers, porters, bellman, cooks and kitchen workers are among those participating in the strike vote. 

The union has proposed contract language including workplace safety, sexual harassment, subcontracting, technology and immigration. 

Most hotels along the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas would be affected. The Culinary Union has a full list on its website.  

The resorts not involved include Rio, Elara, Hilton Grand Vacations Club locations, The Cosmopolitan, Trump International Hotel, Wynn, Encore, Vdara, The Signature at MGM Grand and Homewood Suites. The Venetian and Palazzo would also not be affected as the Culinary Union is not represented at the Sands resorts. 

What percentage of Nevada workers are members of a union? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2017, that 12.7 percent of wage and salary workers are union members.

This is only slightly below the low of 12.1 percent in 2016 while at its peak in 1996, the union membership rate was at 20.4 percent. 

The rate nationwide is 10.7 percent and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that union membership rates in Nevada have been at or above the U.S. average for the past 30 years.