Culinary Union Pickets on Las Vegas Strip - 8 News NOW

Culinary Union Pickets on Las Vegas Strip

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LAS VEGAS -- In their first major protest in more than a decade, Culinary Union members throughout the Las Vegas valley are picketing on the Las Vegas Strip for a contract and health benefits.

Workers at the Cosmopolitan said they've been without proper working conditions since the hotel and casino opened more than two years ago.

Servers, mixologists, bartenders and housekeepers marched for what they called "the Strip standard."

"It's been 18 months of negotiations," Cosmopolitan mixologist George Sproule said. "We've been open over two years. We have no contract like the rest of the Strip enjoys."

Cosmopolitan food server Christopher Eck added, "It's personal to all of us. Cosmopolitan is trying to change the Strip standard and we don't want that to happen."

Workers are asking for housekeeping contract language, something they said will create safer working conditions.

They also want a guaranteed work week, pension and seniority provisions that show commitment to the company.

A Las Vegas economist said a contract would also lead to a better salary.

"Wages of Culinary Union members are substantially higher than they would be if the union didn't exist," UNLV economics professor Jeff Waddoups said.

Workers said a benefits package is a high priority. Many are paying out-of-pocket costs for health care, a problem for them and their families.

Cosmopolitan cashier Michelle Dimenso said she is forced to pay out-of-pocket for her diabetes medications.

"Medicines every month sometimes cost me $500 a month," she said.

Union workers said they are glad they are working in a time when many throughout the valley are not, but want job security.

"We are lucky," Sproule said. "We do feel lucky. But we want to be here for years. And it would be nice to have a guarantee with that contract."

With 55,000 members, the Culinary Union said if their needs are not met, they could continue with further demonstration down the line.

In a statement, the Cosmopolitan said, "We understand that it is the union's right to picket. The Cosmopolitan has been negotiating in good faith and will continue to do so."

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