Culinary Union Ratifies Deal with Harrah's Entertainment

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Union members representing 15,000 workers at six Las Vegas casinos owned by Harrah's Entertainment Inc. voted overwhelmingly to approve a five-year contract on Saturday.

Some 97 percent of the voting members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165 backed the agreement, which was negotiated over the last three months, the unions said.

The agreement included the largest wage and benefits increase in the history of the unions, a spokeswoman for the unions said. The deal was ratified as the unions were also negotiating with the other major Las Vegas Strip casino operator, MGM Mirage Inc.

"It definitely sets a base standard," said Pilar Weiss, the culinary union's political director, told The Associated Press.

The contract includes language that for the first time guarantees pay differentials for workers who will face a pay cut by entering into active military duty.

It also sets up "career ladders" that pave the way for employees to receive specialized training and have opportunities to get promoted.

"It's part of the Las Vegas Dream and the American Dream that if you work hard, you can move up, and the Harrah's deal puts a lot of that into the contract," Weiss said.

Harrah's regional president Marilyn Winn, who was the company's lead negotiator, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the agreement was "a fair deal for both sides."

"By getting a new contract in place, it allows our employees to focus on great customer service and not be worried about a contract situation," she said.

Harrah's Entertainment is the world's largest gambling company by revenue and second-largest on the Las Vegas Strip, where it operates the Flamingo, Paris, Ballys, Caesars Palace, Rio and Harrah's hotel-casinos.

The powerful Culinary Local 226 represents about 60,000 cooks, waiters, housekeepers and other service workers in Nevada.

A previous five-year contract expired June 1, but negotiations have continued separately with companies including Harrah's and the Strip's largest employer, MGM Mirage Inc.

The culinary has about 21,000 members at MGM Mirage properties, which include the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Luxor, Excalibur and New York-New York, Monte Carlo, Treasure Island and Circus-Circus.

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