Culinary Union Workers Union Local 226 announced on Monday that more than 300 food service workers at the Las Vegas Convention Center will vote on December 7 on whether to authorize a strike. That’s should union officials fail to reach a contract settlement before then. Negotiations are scheduled to begin on November 29 for the food service workers’ contract, which expired last month.
A “yes” vote would place a strike perilously close to Las Vegas’ annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), scheduled for Jan. 5-8, 2023 at the convention center. Every year, that show pumps more than a quarter of a billion dollars into the region’s economy.
At a press conference Monday, Culinary Union leaders and workers at Sodexo – the Convention Center’s exclusive provider of food and beverage services – urged the company to avoid a labor dispute. The union said that non-tipped cooks, dishwashers, banquet servers, concessions cashiers, and other employees of Sodexo earn an average of $16 to $19 an hour working at the convention center, which is woefully inadequate to cover today’s escalating cost of living.
According to a Unite Here survey of 154 out of 449 Sodexo convention center workers in Las Vegas, Detroit, and Sacramento, approximately 84% reported trouble paying for housing, food, utilities, transportation, health care, or child care in the past year – with 45% reporting trouble paying for food.
“I’m voting to strike because we are the ones that make the Convention Center successful, and we want to get a fair share of that success,” said Dylan Schoenhard, a convention center banquet server, in a press statement provided by the Culinary Union. “We need higher pay because everything is so much more expensive now, especially rent and housing. We don’t want to be treated like second-class workers.”
In addition to low wages, Sodexo convention center workers said they’re doing more work with less help because of the pandemic, which has permanently reduced the workforce. The Las Vegas Convention Center had 56% fewer Sodexo workers in August 2022 than in February 2020, according to the union.
Convention Business Up
According to the Culinary Union, the Las Vegas Convention Center hosted more conventions in FY22 than in FY2019, with facilities usage revenue increasing commensurately.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, convention business is booming again, and Culinary Union members work tirelessly to provide the best service,” said Ted Pappageorge, the union’s secretary-treasurer. “The Las Vegas Convention Center generates billions in positive economic impact for Nevada per year. But the workers who make that possible are getting left behind.”
Sodexo workers in three other major convention cities – Detroit, Sacramento, and New Orleans – are also considering a strike. Orlando has already voted to authorize one.
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