Harrah’s workers OK union

Jun 19, 2007 3:48 AM

Union members representing 14,250 workers at six Las Vegas casinos owned by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. voted overwhelmingly to approve a five-year contract last weekend.

About 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 agreement, which a union spokeswoman said includes the largest wage and benefits increase in the unions’ history, was ratified Saturday as the unions were also negotiating with the other major Las Vegas Strip casino operator, MGM Mirage.

"It definitely sets a base standard," said Pilar Weiss, the culinary union’s political director.

Harrah’s said wages and benefits would increase an average 3.7 percent per year for the next five years, or $3.47 per hour total. When including some guaranteed gratuity arrangements and salary continuation agreements if properties are closed, the total package would cost Harrah’s an extra $265 million over five years, said Marilyn Winn, a Harrah’s regional president and chief negotiator.

The contract 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.

Winn said the career advancement language sets a precedent.

"It’s probably the first time that it’s been so clearly defined," she said.