Las Vegas, the city synonymous with entertainment and hospitality, is on the brink of an unprecedented strike that could significantly disrupt the Formula 1 Grand Prix scheduled for 16 November.
The Culinary and Bartenders Union, which represents 35,000 members across 18 properties, has warned of a strike if its demands for better pay and conditions are not met. The disruption could well mean a cancellation of the Formula 1 Grand Prix itself.
Demand for historic wage increases
The workers, who currently earn around $26 an hour plus health insurance, are holding out for what the union has described as “the largest wage increases ever negotiated”. While the details of the requested wage increase remain undisclosed, the union’s position is clear: its members deserve a substantial increase in their compensation, especially in light of the record profits being made by their employers.
The union’s demands go beyond financial gains. They are seeking greater job security in the face of technological advances that threaten their roles, and stronger safety measures, such as additional safety buttons to increase worker protection.
A walkout with historic implications
If the strike goes ahead, it would be the first significant strike by Las Vegas hospitality workers in a generation, and could potentially become the largest in US history. With about 40,000 of the union’s 60,000 members out of contract, the situation is tense, with some members continuing to work under the terms of their expired contracts while negotiations drag on.
Formula 1 Grand Prix on the line
As Las Vegas transforms into a grand racetrack, the Formula One event, which is expected to attract 120,000 spectators, is hanging in the balance. The union has urged Grand Prix visitors to respect picket lines and avoid hotels and casinos involved in the dispute. Quite how the union would expect that visitors for the race could possibly hope to abide by this request is not exactly clear; the track itself incorporates most of the properties affected by the strike action.
Seven months of negotiations with MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts have yet to produce a resolution. The union’s secretary-treasurer, Ted Pappageorge, has stated that the current proposal, while historic, falls short of what the workers rightfully deserve.
Vegas a hostage to F1 success
Las Vegas has around 150,000 rooms available to book and with a crowd of 120,000 expected to watch the F1 race, the success of the entire city depends on race fans not being deterred from attending by the current industrial dispute. U2 who have opened the new mega $2bn Spare venue have been playing around 3 times a week, attracting around 60,000 visitors across the 3 performances.
During the weekend of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Vegas saw the opening of a limited number of Kylie Minogue concerts. This together with the U2 fans saw the city booked up and the few rooms available were being offered at over $1000 dollars a night.
U2 have been asked to suspend their residency at the Sphere for three weeks before and after the F1 event due to the pressure on hotel room capacity. Bono said goodbye ‘for a while’ last night joking his band were like the current F1 stars Max Verstappen (drummer), Lewis Hamilton (bass) and Charles Leclerc (lead guitar).
Wynn Resorts has reserved comment for the bargaining table, while MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment have not yet responded to requests for comment.
Formula One’s decision to hold a race in Las Vegas, in addition to events in Miami and Austin, underlines the sport’s growing popularity in the U.S. This year’s race is particularly notable as it is the first in Las Vegas in forty years and the first to include the city’s famous Strip as part of the circuit.
Local sentiment and controversy
While there is support for the potential economic boost the Grand Prix could bring, the event has not been without controversy. The erection of visual barriers for security purposes has led to community backlash, with residents decrying the disruption and environmental impact. Indeed, this website (TJ13) itself visited the track last week and reported on the huge discontent the Grand Prix has brought amongst the local population and businesses situated along the famous Vegas strip. READ MORE ON THIS STORY
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One small Casino/hotel has its entrance/exit for cars just around turn 4 and they have been informed they will be unable to take road traffic onto their property for 12 days before and after the Grand Prix. The owner disclosed he will receive nothing from either the Las Vegas authorities or from F1 and will just be out of pocket for the duration of the event.
Another local business owner declared there had been a rise in local resident s petitioning the authorities for the race to be cancelled from next year onwards, and when they were informed by this website representative that there was a ten year contract between the parties they were dismayed beyond belief.
A climate of labour unrest
The looming strike in Las Vegas is part of a broader pattern of labour unrest in the US, with recent strikes by UPS workers, Detroit autoworkers and Hollywood actors. Just last month, hotel workers from the Culinary and Bartenders Union were arrested for blocking traffic during a protest, and casino workers in Michigan, including those at the MGM Grand Detroit, also went on strike.
As Las Vegas teeters on the brink of a potentially historic strike, the future of the F1 Grand Prix remains uncertain and the actions of the hospitality workers could have far-reaching consequences for the event and the city.
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