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Las Vegas Hospitality Workers Arrested After Massive Protest Shuts Down The Strip

2023 continues to be a tipping point for the U.S. labor movement. This week, thousands of hotel workers came together on the Las Vegas strip to rally as they continued fighting for new union contracts.

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Gathering on the Las Vegas strip Wednesday evening during rush-hour traffic, the massive group of union workers and supporters sought to draw attention to negotiations involving three main casino companies. Per the Associated Press:

Seated in two separate circles, workers in red T-shirts blocked cars in both directions for roughly 30 minutes as the sun sank in the west, casting golden rays across one of the most recognizable stretches of the Strip near the Bellagio fountain, the Eiffel Tower replica and Caesars Palace. Police officers with zip ties eventually started taking protesters into custody, leading them to a white police bus with flashing red and blue lights.

In the end, 58 people were cited for assembling to disturb the peace during the peaceful labor protest in Las Vegas. According to a statement given to the AP, the union will cover all legal fees for the workers who were arrested.

Why are Las Vegas hotel workers protesting?

The Nevada Culinary Workers Union and Bartenders Union already overwhelmingly voted in September to authorize a strike if no agreements had been met with three major companies: MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts.

A strike is reportedly looming, with “some 35,000 Las Vegas hospitality workers are ready to walk off the job on Nov. 10,” according to Reuters. This week’s protest was meant to draw attention to their cause as well as their potential power ahead of that potential strike.

Some of the many tourists who witnessed Wednesday’s rally gave encouraging comments to the AP. Two people who are not involved in the protest said that they will not return to Vegas. Cindy Hiatt, from Missouri, told the outlet: “The hotels are going to have to realize that they’re not going to have people wanting to come to Vegas without these workers.” Yes, protests can be annoying when you get caught up in them, say stuck in traffic, but this is the attention they are trying to bring. Protests are meant to be disruptive because that’s the only way change happens. It’s heartening to hear outsiders recognize that.

A strike would undoubtedly disrupt Vegas’ economy, as it relies heavily on the hospitality and tourism industry. In 2022, tourism contributed a record high of $79.3 billion to the region’s economy. These workers are very, very important to the companies and to the state at large.

The culinary union in particular is very integral. It’s the largest labor union in Nevada with around 60,000 members. Contracts have expired for about 40,000 of these workers, leading to the new negotiations. Workers are seeking the same things we’ve seen in strikes across other industries: higher wages, better working conditions, improved safety, and job security in the face of new technology, among other things.

(featured image: welcomia/Getty Images)

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