By now I would hope that everyone is aware of the continuing drama at Wynn Las Vegas. For the one or two of you who have been living in a cave for the last few months Wynn has taken a portion of the DEALER'S tips and given them to management in the form of a pay raise.
A friend of mine who I highly respect and who has been in casino management for a long time tells me that this is how it should be and that this should have happened years ago. I beg to differ. I simply cannot grasp how this can be "right" and just.
It's not without precedent. Although the situation at Wynn only affects (for now) pit dealers I've been told that in some poker rooms in California (I believe Oceans Eleven for one) it is mandatory for poker dealers to "toke" management $2.50 per down. That's $5.00 per hour for those of you keeping score. Assuming a dealer deals 12 down per day that adds up to $7800 per year. Multiply that by a goodly number of dealers and the numbers add up quickly.
Most industry veterans expected the furror over this situation to end quickly. With the history of Las Vegas dealers and unions that would be a reasonable expectation. The Wynn dealers were supposed to bitch and moan for a week or so and then roll over and take it. That, my friends, is not how it is playing out.
The Wynn dealers have found a rallying cry that previous generations of dealers did not.
Liz Benston, in a recent column, quotes Mr. Wynn as saying:
"About 5 percent of the dealers, maybe 40 of them, are convinced I picked their
pockets," Wynn said this week of the new tips allocations. "It's an awful hard
case to make that we're abusing anyone. They may be (angry), but they ain't
quitting." Steve Wynn-December 2006
Can this man honestly believe that only 5% of his dealers are convinced that he reached directly into their pocket and grabbed fistfulls of dollars in order to hand it over to his managers? I'll take the over on that one. I'd be surprised if that number isn't closer to 100%!!
In any case I've heard that over 50% of his dealers are in favor of organizing. The Teamsters are actively soliciting support. The dealers have been granted class action status and the legal gears continue to turn. By most accounts the atmosphere is extremely hostile. This is one stink that has not and will not blow over any time soon.
I wonder what competing casino bosses think of Steve's "bold" move. On one hand I can see them licking their chops just waiting to implement this policy in their own houses should it pass legal muster and assuming that the Wynn dealers are unsuccessful in organizing. On the other hand I'd bet more than a few are steaming that this can of worms has been opened. At this point I don't think that the genie can be stuffed back into it's lamp. The damage has been done. If the Teamsters are voted in at Wynn then that and only that
becomes his legacy. The golden boy of gaming will be forever remembered as the person who ushered in the era of organized dealers. No small feat.
My own historical opinion of unions is shaped by several things. My father was a union member for 25 years and 9 months. He worked for Kelly Springfield/Goodyear and was a member of the United Rubber Workers. I'd expect that we lived a typical middle class life. While not living lavishly, I don't remember wanting for much. There was always food on the table and two cars sitting out front.
Toward the end of dad's employment it became rather clear that the plant was destined to be shut down. The only question was how long would it remain in operation. In an effort to keep their jobs for as long as possible the rank and file voted give concessions back to the company. I don't know the exact figures, but employees voluntarily took a pay cut in the hopes of keeping their job. That's a pretty bold step born of desperation in my opinion.
It wasn't long before the inevitable happened and the closure date was announced.
My fathers last paycheck from Kelly Springfield had union dues deducted from it.
That fact largely cemented my opinion that unions were nothing but money grubbing entities. We couldn't save your job, but by damn we're getting ours until the very end.
When I graduated college and entered the workforce as a salaried manager I carried this view with me. Twice during my management career I lived through unionization attempts. The first effort was half assed/hearted and never really got off of the gound. The second, with a different employer, was a full fledged campaign that progressed all the way to a vote.
I can tell you that from my perspective the union promised the moon. They could basically promise anything and everything while we couldn't threaten, interrogate, promise or spy. The law was very clear and it seemed heavily in favor of the union.
If you've never lived through a flull blown unionization campaign you'll have to trust me when I say it can and often does get ugly. I don't recall the name of the firm, but the company that I worked for retained the services of a powerful union busting firm out of NYC. For all I know it could be the same person/firm that Steve Wynn has hired to combat the unionization campaign at Wynn LV. These people are very persuasive and very expensive. I don't envy the management staff at Wynn. (although I just might envy the huge pay raise they just got ) I know how quickly it becomes personal. How a vote for the union is a vote against you. I hope that someone sees the light before it comes to a vote, but I don't think he will.
In my situation, I was pleased that the vote was in favor of the company (and by extention me as a member of the management staff) to the tune of 70+ percent. That particular union had seriously misjudged our workforce. They spent a lot of money and effort to no avail. Unbelievably, there were hourly employess who picketed outside our gate AGAINST the union. To this day, 8 years on,that business remains non-union.
Moving back to the situation at Wynn. The numbers that I have seen show that for the few months that this policy has been in place, dealers have lost around 13% of what they historically made. Regardless of your income level would YOU sit idly by and not try to fight a 13% cut in pay? I would hope and think not.
If this doesn't chill every dealer in town, if not the country, right down to the bone then nothing will. If this is allowed to stand then we deserve to make minimum wage and be happy with whatever portion of the tips the powers that be decide we deserve. After all the players aren't really tipping the delaers are they? Surely they want some of their tip going to the management staff.
I just don't get it.
Right now there is a line of people a mile long for every "good" tipped job in town. The prospect of making a decent living via tips is what brings thousands of people to Southern Nevada. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine that influx of tip earners drying up quicker than Lake Mead if the possibility of great tips goes away. Would people really endure living in the desert for $5.85 an hour? What happens when the migration stops?
I wouldn't want to be the golden boy who killed the goose that laid the golden egg.
Too dramatic? Maybe.
Only time will tell.