Culinary union to be a more frequent presence at Cosmopolitan until contracts are signed

/ Las Vegas Sun

Cosmopolitan housekeeper Janet Nunez speaks as the California School Employees Association, in town for a convention, join Culinary workers to picket the Cosmopolitan Wednesday, July 31, 2013.

After four major protests outside the Cosmopolitan since January, the Culinary Union is turning up the pressure.

The Culinary now plans to picket outside the Strip resort every weekend until they secure solid contracts for the 2,000 workers who have been clocking in without a labor agreement for more than two years.

The weekly campaign begins Friday with two protests, running from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. The Culinary will be joined Friday by members of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, a union in town for an annual convention.

“We want the company to understand that workers have been patient and great,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of the Culinary. “They’re living at a standard of living that’s lower than our standard. … They need to have what the other workers on the Strip have.”

Union officials contend the Cosmopolitan's owner, Deutsche Bank, is uninterested in settling the labor dispute, which has burned since the struggling 3,000-room resort opened in 2010 — though labor peace would likely help its sales prospects.

"It is hard to believe Deutsche Bank, which owns the Cosmopolitan 100 percent, is not playing a role there, especially in the nongaming areas where our members work," said Ken Liu, a spokesman with Unite Here, the Culinary's parent company. "What would Deutsche Bank shareholders say if they were told by the management board that Deutsche had nothing to do with what happens at the Las Vegas casino it spent $4.8 billion to build?”

“The Cosmopolitan management continues to negotiate in good faith with the Culinary Union. We feel we have been making good progress on behalf of our CoStars and we are hopeful that progress can continue in a positive direction," Cosmopolitan officials said in a statement. "As always, our highest priority is the safety and comfort of our guests and CoStars and we will continue to work with the authorities.”

Negotiations have been stalled between the Culinary — which represents about 50,000 bartenders, maids and food servers — and the Cosmopolitan over what is known as a successorship clause: a guarantee that a union member’s contract would carry over if the resort is sold.

Cosmopolitan bosses have been hard-pressed to ink deals focused on 40-hour workweeks, health insurance and job security.

The Culinary is negotiating with MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp. But both gaming giants have avoided labor disputes by signing extensions on contracts that expired June 1.

Marking its fourth protest since January, the Culinary last picketed outside the Cosmopolitan on July 31, joined by more than 1,000 members of the California School Employees Association.

The sea of more than 3,000 union members forced Metro Police to constrict Las Vegas Boulevard to one lane for two hours.