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Las Vegas could be paralysed as 50,000 hospitality workers ready to walk out

LAS VEGAS could be paralysed by its first city-wide strike since 1984 next week after members of the Culinary and Bartenders unions voted by a 99 per cent margin to walk out.

Contracts covering 50,000 workers expire on June 1 and unions say negotiations with individual casino operators and hotels that started in February have failed to reach agreement. Those likely to participate include bartenders, room attendants, waiting staff, porters, cooks and kitchen workers.

Workers are calling for higher pay to take casino firms’ enormous profits into account — with companies expecting revenue boosts of between 10 and 30 per cent as a result of President Donald Trump’s massive tax cut for business, which slashed federal corporation tax from 35 to 21 per cent and abolished other taxes on the wealthy entirely.

Critics have pointed out that the Trump family itself will count its profits from the tax cuts in billions of dollars and workers in the casino and hospitality sector, in which he is heavily involved, are determined to force firms to cough up some of the increase.

Other issues of dispute are protections for workers from automation as well as from sexual harassment and outsourcing.

Culinary Union secretary-treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline said: “A strike is a last resort. We want to come to an agreement, but the union and workers are preparing for a city-wide strike if contracts are not settled by June 1.”

Prep cook Chad Neanover said he had voted for strike action “to ensure my job isn’t outsourced to a robot.

“We know technology is coming ... but casino companies should ensure that technology is harnessed to improve the quality and safety in the workplace, not as a way to completely eliminate our jobs,” he argued.

While MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment, which between them run around half the establishments likely to be affected, say they expect to reach a deal before June 1, urban economics professor David Fiorenza said companies were already training managers to scab in other roles and were “likely” looking at bussing in temporary workers from elsewhere.

The Culinary Union maintains the www.vegastravelalert.org website to assist visitors to the city in avoiding crossing picket lines during their holiday.

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