Las Vegas Convention Center Food Workers Vote to Authorize Strike

Culinary Union Workers Union Local 226 announced on Friday that food service workers at the Las Vegas Convention Center have voted unanimously to authorize a strike.

Local 226 represents 300 cooks, dishwashers, banquet servers, concessions cashiers, and other non-tipped workers employed by Sodexo/Centerplate, the Convention Center’s exclusive contracted food and beverage supplier. The union did not indicate how many of its 300 workers voted.

Las Vegas Convention Center LVCVA visitors authority
The exterior of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall. About 300 food service workers at the Convention Center voted on Dec. 7 and 8 to authorize a strike. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

A strike authorization vote is widely considered a pressure tactic to expedite a contract resolution. It doesn’t necessarily mean that workers will walk off the job. Indeed, union officials indicated that negotiations were “still ongoing,” and did not announce a strike date.

The longer that negotiations drag out, however, the closer a possible strike will come to threatening the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Scheduled for the Convention Center on Jan. 5-8, 2023, the annual convention pumps more than a quarter of a billion dollars into the region’s economy.

The union’s contract with Sodexo/Centerplate expired in August. Contract talks were held Nov. 29 and Nov. 30, but stalled.

Inadequate Wages

According to the union, the Convention Center hosted more conventions in FY2022 than in FY2019, with facilities usage revenue increasing commensurately. At the same time, it said, these 300 workers earn an average of $16 to $19 an hour, which is inadequate to cover today’s escalating cost of living.

“I’ve worked at the Las Vegas Convention Center for 20 years and I voted yes to authorize a strike because we deserve wages that are equitable and have parity with the Las Vegas Strip,” said Pearl Rodriguez, a coffee server at the Convention Center, in a press statement issued by Local 226. “I’m extremely inspired by the past. We are standing on the shoulders of everyone that came before us. I think back to the Frontier Strike and what those workers had to endure and the fight that they had over their very long strike – they set an example for us. We are not second-class.”

Rodriguez’s statement referred to a six-year strike at the Frontier that was resolved when Phil Ruffin — now owner of Treasure Island and Circus Circus — acquired and renamed the resort in 1998. Upon its resolution, union workers marched arm-in-arm through the New Frontier led by Rev. Jesse Jackson, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, and then-Gov. Bob Miller.

In addition to low wages, Convention Center workers said they’re doing more work with less help because of the pandemic, which has permanently reduced the workforce. The Convention Center had 56% fewer Sodexo/Centerplate workers in August 2022 than in February 2020, according to the union.

This week’s vote was the second unanimous authorization vote in two months. Workers in Orlando, Fla. also authorized a strike in early November.