Happy Thanksgiving from GGB; Newsletter Returns December 4

Riviera, Trop, TI Reach Contracts with Culinary

It’s three down, 12 to go as Las Vegas’s Culinary and Bartenders unions continue to negotiate new contracts with the city’s stand-alone resorts. All the casinos owned by MGM and Caesars have settled new deals. The outstanding casinos have until March 20 to come to terms or face a possible strike.

Culinary protests higher cost of healthcare

Las Vegas’s influential Culinary Union has signed new five-year contracts with the Riviera and Treasure Island resorts, a week after inking a new deal with the Tropicana. The unions have already agreed on new contracts with casinos owned by MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp.

The Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 reached an agreement with the Riviera March 7, and the Tropicana was not far behind. The contracts still must be ratified by resort workers.

The unions are continuing to negotiate with a dozen other stand-alone casino resorts: the LVH, Stratosphere, Plaza, Las Vegas Club, Binion’s, 4 Queens, the D, Fremont, Main Street Station, Golden Nugget, El Cortez, Golden Gate, and Jerry’s Nugget, reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The union has scheduled a strike authorization vote on March 20 if it does not come to terms with the remaining casinos.

A walkout seems unlikely, reports Vegasinc.com. The last major strike in Las Vegas started in September 1991 at the Frontier. More than 500 Culinary workers held a 24-hour picket line outside the casino for six years, four months and 10 days. That strike?the longest in U.S. history?finally ended in January 1998.

In back-to-back statements on the new deals, Culinary secretary treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline said the union was “thrilled” to collaborate with the properties on contracts that are “mutually beneficial” to the casinos and their employees. In all three cases, and in the major resort contracts, workers will keep their health insurance. Changes also were made that will allow food and beverage operations that may help employees of shuttered restaurants to regain their jobs.

There is one wrinkle in the deal, according to CNN Money: Obamacare. The Culinary has begun to push for employee contributions to its healthcare fund to cover the rising costs of health insurance.

Currently, employers pay 100 percent of the premiums. But higher costs that resulted from the Affordable Care Act have made casino operators less willing to pick up the whole tab. Union healthcare funds pool contributions from multiple employers to cover the cost of healthcare and pensions. But these funds, also called Taft-Hartley funds, don’t qualify for federal subsidies.

“The administration has made change after change to meet other groups’ needs,” said Yvanna Cancela, the Culinary local’s political director. “Our members want to keep their health plans.” Since the ACA passed in 2010, the Culinary has had to pay $23 million to cover members’ children up to age 26, Cancela said. This year, it faces $7 million in other increases. It is asking the casinos to boost their contributions by 35 cents per worker in the first year, 50 cents in the second and 55 cents in the third.