Culinary Union tactics hurt Las Vegas tourism

November 2nd, 20130 Comments »

Culinary Union

The Culinary Union continues their protests against the The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas employing increasingly aggressive tactics in order to force the property to sign a union contact.

Their latest act of “civil disobedience” resulted in nearly 100 arrests after union members went inside the Cosmo to protest, loudly chanting and wearing red shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “I’m getting arrested to provide for my family”.

The disruption inside the casino was in addition to the more than 3,000 protesters who the Culinary Union recruited from California to assist them in trying up traffic on the Las Vegas strip on a busy Friday night.

Culinary Union members wearing red shirts protesting at The Cosmo Las Vegas

Culinary Union members protesting inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Nov. 1. (Photo: Vegas Inc./Ed Komenda)

The resort, owned by Deutsche Bank, opened in December of 2010 and has struggled financially since they opened.

The Culinary Union has been targeting the Cosmo because the property opened without having a union agreement in place.

For over two years, both sides have failed to come to terms on a contractual agreement.

Union members want contracts that include guaranteed 40-hour work weeks, and also want the Cosmo to make higher health care contributions.

A major sticking point is that the Culinary Union wants the collective bargaining agreement to carry over to potential new owners in the event that the resort is sold.

Do Las Vegas Casinos really want to be a union house?

Most of the larger strip and downtown Las Vegas properties have union contacts in place .

Even if they have thought about not renewing their contact, at this point in time, none of the big guns are going to take on this endeavor because they fear the wrath of the union and do not want to jeopardize their business.

The Golden Gate felt the union’s wrath in 2002 after a 10-day strike nearly crippled the small downtown casino after their contract expired.  After the strike, they settled.

One of the larger union protests occurred in 1984 and lasted for nearly a year.

On the culinary union website, they say they are gearing up for a major labor dispute.

Are unions in Las Vegas good for business?

Many union employees will say they are satisfied.  They receive guaranteed hours, guaranteed wages and guaranteed increases in pay as well as generous fixed amount contributions for retirement and health care, however, other workers, the ones that are non-union, can and do suffer because of all the guarantees in the union contract.

A good example of this suffering is that during slower periods of business, non-union employees hours are often reduced disproportionately.

If employers had more flexibility to more equitably distribute any temporary reduction in hours among the workforce, each worker would only be minimally affected.

From a managerial standpoint it can be challenging because unionization, at least in Las Vegas casinos, overall, does not foster a team-type “can-do” mentality in the workplace.

Union employees are heavily indoctrinated to protect their job at all costs.

Cocktail servers, for example, will pick up empty glasses but will not pick up anything else that might be right near the glass because it is not their job.  That’s the union casino porters job.

Should an overzealous non-union employee attempt to tidy up the area by picking up any visible trash, union employees will often file a grievance with the union against the property.

To this day, unfortunately, the mantra, “It’s not my job’ can still be heard.

Casinos fought back and as technology advanced a number of union positions within the casinos were eliminated, although casinos had to pay through the nose to make it happen.

Throughout the years, both sides have worked toward finding a more middle ground, however there is still a big division between union and non-union workers and it does affect the guest experience and how operators run their casinos and hotels.

Culinary Union cares about the guest experience if you have a contract

The Cosmo has been targeted repeatedly by the union. So has Stations Casinos.

These protests negatively impact the guest experience and they ultimately hurt Las Vegas Tourism.

Would you return to a casino where people were yelling at you and calling you a loser?

Do you want to walk past a bunch of disgruntled, angry employees hurling cuss words at you?

How about being called a “scab” or a “beached whale”?

That’s exactly what happened to vacationers visiting The Cosmo last month and some of it was caught on video.

What’s next – physical attacks on tourists and non-union employees?

Friday’s disruption of business at The Cosmo was designed to send a strong message to the owners of The Cosmo and to any other casino that would dare consider not renewing their contract.

That message is,

Sign a contract or we will be committed to disrupting and possibly destroying your business.  We are committed to our mission and we do not care if it affects Las Vegas Tourism.


On the Culinary Union website, they refer to the Cosmopolitan as the CosNOpolitan and call them a cancer on the strip.

Culinary Union tactics are hurting Las Vegas Tourism.

(Photo: Culinary Union 226)


Even if an agreement is eventually reached, can the two sides ever have a good relationship?

The Culinary Union plans to hold weekly protests at the property that, according to the The Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs, will cost $2,600 in police costs weekly.

That’s over $10,000 per month.

Ron Futrell, spokesman for the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs, said,

If these protests were to continue for a year, they would cost the taxpayers of Las Vegas over a half million dollars in estimated police costs. The fact that Clark County taxpayers are stuck with a bill just so union bosses can shout obscenities at tourists through a bullhorn is absolutely ridiculous.

The Culinary Union is so focused on securing the contract, even though the planned weekly protests are costly, divert manpower away from emergencies and will negatively impact Las Vegas tourism.

Culinary Union creates new website slamming The Cosmopolitan

In keeping with the “we will do anything” attitude, the Culinary Union in conjunction with the Bartenders Union Local 165 is running a new site that was recently created called Culinary Confidential.

The site claims to offer perspective on the hospitality industry, however, reading through the recently launched blog, it is quite apparent that the real focus is to slam The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

Union Insights

My father served as President of a major union for many years.  His entire work-life was within the union industry, both as a worker and then later in a leadership position.

Needless to say, he was very pro-union yet realistic and open-minded.

He passed away over 20 years ago and I still remember the spirited conversations we had, particularly when there was a high-profile labor dispute.

His view was that at one time unions provided many benefits, particularly to minorities and women, and he let me know that, indirectly, union organization may very well have helped open doors to me professionally.

He also felt that as time went on and society advanced that most companies offered fair wages and benefits, the workforce was better monitored with effective laws in place and that unions were no longer necessary.

He predicted that unions would lose a lot of popularity in a strong economy and that when the economy tanked, unions would again gain popularity.

My father insights about unionization.

The Culinary Union is very focused on it’s mission and many more escalating disruptions against the Cosmo are planned.

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About Chellie Cervone

A Las Vegas "native" by way of New York, I'm a professional blogger who favors all things Las Vegas and offers a unique, witty and sometimes controversial perspective. You can count on me to tell it like it is. Please visit my other sites Las Vegas World News and Celebrity Feast Connect with me on Google+ Chellies World on Google+

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