Wynn never saw union vote coming

May 15, 2007 5:44 AM

You can imagine Steve Wynn doing a double take when he got the news, and perhaps saying, "They did WHAAAAT?"

Or something like that.

There was a lot of shock and awe in every direction as industry executives absorbed the news that the dealers at Wynn Las Vegas had voted 444-149 in favor of having the Transport Workers Union as their bargaining agent.

The surprise shared by people who are very familiar with Wynn’s approach to the care and management of important issues fell at two extremes: surprise that Wynn had failed to accurately read the level of unrest among those doing the voting and surprise that so many dealers saw their tips "as some kind of entitlement."

None of the executives who shared their views wanted to be identified by name because they all currently work for other companies.

"I don’t know who was managing this issue for Steve," said a former Mirage executive, "but they seemed to have failed in some very obvious areas. The way to handle these things is you divide and conquer. You find out who the leaders of the union effort are and you isolate them and you treat the rest like they are so much gold."

Another former Wynn employee saw the vote as a likely consequence of Wynn being stretched too thin.

"Between Las Vegas and Macau," this former executive said, "Steve has probably been stretched too thin. In another time and place he would have done a much smoother job of selling this. They (dealers) would not have seen any of those Steve Wynn temper tantrums. You expose people to that side of Steve and some of these dealers will walk out of a meeting saying they need a union to protect them."

None of the former Wynn employees who shared their feelings for this account had any problem with the basic issue — Wynn’s decision to share tokes with the floor supervisors.

One of them argued, "Steve created this product and the marketing organization that gave these dealers what has to be up there with Bellagio as the best-paying job in town. And the dealers think the tips are as big as they are because of them?"

Even on the phone is was easy to imagine him giving that a big shake of the head.

"He has to keep the satisfaction of the floormen, who are always under pressure from both sides, the dealers they supervise and the people above them. You’ve got to ensure good supervision or you’re in trouble and the dealers were probably slipping them (supervisors) money anyway, which puts the dealers in control of the people supervising them."

So why not merely give supervisors an increase in pay?

Possibly because it might have created a ripple effect of financial issues in other areas of the company. From the standpoint of accounting procedures it was easier to do it this way.

"I’m guessing the crap dealers were among the most adamant for the union. This almost always seems to be the case. Also, probably a lot of the 21 dealers. The Asians were probably the people voting against the union," said a former Golden Nugget supervisor.

Looking at the shape of things that might be coming, a former Wynn casino supervisor said, "This is the kind of vote that is going to have the people in charge at other places looking over their shoulders. No one pays much attention when there is a favorable union vote at one of the second or third tier places, but this kind of vote at the Wynn ”¦ Wow, it makes you stop and think."

Maybe it would have been a good idea to put Jack Binion to work at the Wynn rather than shipping him off to Macau where he appears to have burned out after a few months.

A former senior Wynn executive who’s still in Las Vegas gave that idea a quick, "Absolutely!"