Virgin Hotels gives Culinary Union ‘last offer,’ but workers not backing down

Culinary Union workers picketing outside of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on April 11, 2024. (Frank Alejandre / The Nevadan / El Nevadense)

By Jannelle Calderón

May 23, 2024

The offer includes no wage increases in the first three years of a five-year contract and a $1 per hour package increase after that, of which only half would go towards raising workers’ pay.

After five months of negotiations and nearly a year since Virgin Hotels Las Vegas’ contract with the Culinary Workers’ Union Local 226 expired last June, the company presented its “last, best and final offer,” which the union called “a horrible proposal.”

Virgin Hotels said in its offer that the company cannot afford to give its 700 union employees the wage increases in the five-year contract that would match the benefits the Culinary Union agreed on with Strip properties earlier this year. Instead, Virgin proposed no wage increases in the first three years of a five-year contract and a $1 per hour package increase in years four and five — of which 51 cents would go towards benefits and pension, meaning employees would get wage raises of only 49 cents per hour.

“After five months they finally made a movement on wages, but it is woefully inadequate and substandard,” Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union said during a press conference Thursday. “These are not second-class workers, and we’re not going to allow them to be treated second-class by any company in Las Vegas.”

In a letter to the union, Virgin Hotels executives said that the first three years, in which employees would receive 51 cents per hour in benefit contributions and no wage increases, would act as a “runway” to give Virgin Hotels “time to stabilize its business.”

The company also highlighted other conditions such as workload reduction and safety conditions, but Pappageorge said wages have been the main issue during the negotiation process. He assured that the union is not going to stop pushing and believes Virgin Hotels does have the money.

Virgin Hotels was previously the Hard Rock Hotel — after acquiring the hotel in 2018 for $500 million, Virgin spent $200 million on renovating the property.

“It took a two-day strike for them to find the money that they said they previously didn’t have,” he said. “It’s not a high bar. These are unlimited gaming companies that are investing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into the infrastructure and with a pittance for the workers compared to their competition.”

The next step is to have the worker-led negotiating committee analyze the company’s offer and set a day to go back to the bargaining table. Pappageorge told reporters that workers “have the right to bargain in good faith” and that they are not at an impasse yet, which is when the two sides negotiating are unable to reach an agreement and become deadlocked and may need to go through mediation.

Pappageorge said another strike, like the 48-hour strike workers conducted earlier this month to put pressure on the company, is still an option.

“The opening wage proposal was the proposal that we made to all 28 independent companies up and down the strip … And some of them are doing better, some are not doing as well,” Pappageorge said.

“We all know where the Virgin is at,” he continued, referring to the several wealthy investors that own Virgin Hotels, including an oil and gas investment firm. “But the idea that somehow they’re not able to pay the contract. We just disagree.”

  • Jannelle Calderón

    Jannelle Calderón is a bilingual politics and community multimedia reporter with a passion to highlight the human side to policy and issues as well as showcasing the vibrant cultures found in Southern Nevada. She previously reported for The Nevada Independent and graduated from UNLV.

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