Wynn tips sharing policy dispute intensifies

Other tip earners see fight as having broader implications on hospitality industry

/ File photo

The Encore is shown to the left of the Wynn Las Vegas on the Strip.

The fight between nightclub workers and Wynn Las Vegas over its policy of sharing tips with managers has deepened in recent weeks, with management refusing demands that boxes containing tips be kept in a public place monitored by surveillance cameras.

Other Las Vegas tip earners are watching the dispute because of its broader implications over whether hospitality businesses can redistribute tips as they see fit.

As allowed by their labor contract to resolve tip disputes, Wynn nightclub workers formed a “gratuity committee” a few months ago to battle the tip-sharing policy.

Management rejected an initial vote by the committee to roll back the tip policy because the company thought the committee didn’t represent a cross-section of the dozens of employees who work in nightclubs such as cocktail servers, bartenders and busboys.

Workers opposing the policy say they got the cold shoulder again after the committee reorganized to be more broadly represented and voted a second time a few weeks ago to reject the tip-sharing plan.

The 13-member committee voted 7 to 6 against sharing tips with management and forwarded a list of other demands such as moving boxes where tips are kept from the privacy of a management office to a public location monitored by surveillance.

Wynn nightclub workers say their tips are stored in the box from Monday, the last day the clubs are open, until Thursday or Friday when the clubs reopen and the tips are distributed to employees. Opponents of the tip plan say they don’t trust managers to properly distribute tip windfalls in the tens of thousands of dollars per week.

The resort said it would comply with lesser demands if employees agree to include managers in the tips, but refused to move the locked tip box out of management’s office, according to a Wynn employee who requested anonymity.

“Management basically gave us the finger,” the employee said. “They don’t want to play by the rules. So they took their ball and went home.”

An attorney representing the resort said it’s following the letter of the contract, which allows management to negotiate a resolution with the committee. The committee doesn’t get to decide how tips are distributed, attorney Gregory Kamer said.

Resort employees “don’t vote by majority to determine what room rates are going to be or the color of the bed linens,” he said. “We get to manage that.”

The committee, established by Wynn in its 10-year labor contract, appears to have been granted limited powers.

“Wynn along with a gratuity committee for the outlet may determine and publish a formula that allocates a portion of the tips to any other classifications that have taken part in the service for which the original tip was given,” the contract reads.

“If the gratuity committee and management cannot resolve the means of tip distribution, the secretary treasurer of the union and the president of Wynn or their designees will be the final arbiters of any remaining issues,” it continues.

If workers can’t negotiate an agreement with management, the tip dispute would be decided by an independent arbitrator, Kamer said.

Or management could use its ace in the hole first: One contract provision gives Wynn exclusive authority to impose tip distribution schemes at any time, he said.

“Wynn at its sole option may institute programs whereby gratuities are pooled and disbursed on a pro-rata basis to employees based upon hours worked,” the contract reads.

Nightclub workers involved in the lawsuit claim such provisions are negated by others giving employees the right to keep their tips. A section on tips begins, “All gratuities left by customers are the property of the employees ...”

Not all nightclub workers oppose the tip policy, Kamer said.

“There are multiple contingencies of workers with different interests. Our role is to find the agreement that works for as many employees as possible.”

Thirty-seven current and former nightclub workers joined a lawsuit last year to reverse the tip-sharing plan and return to workers any tip money shared with managers. The suit is pending, with information and documents relevant to the case due from both sides by January. Other employees are keeping mum on the subject, the unnamed Wynn employee said.

“The money is too good to walk away from. People are standing in line for these jobs,” the employee said. “Servers are making $700 to $1,000 per night or $1,500 on a busy weekend — incomprehensible money to someone who’s 22 or 23 and just out of college or was living with mom and dad.”

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  1. "...with management refusing demands that boxes containing tips be kept in a public place monitored by surveillance cameras."
    Let's just file that under "things that make you go hmmmm..."

    Back in the day, if you wanted a job that paid tips, you got a job that paid tips. You also kept the money you earned, unless you were one of the nice people who tipped the bussing staff, the runners, etc.
    Managers got paid to be managers. They didn't need out tips, too.
    Under an arrangement where the managers get a portion of someone else's hard-earned tips, will the managers be doing any of the grudge work that EARNS those tips? Will they be required to share a portion of their much higher wages with those who are paid less, like the people who got jobs that paid tips because they depend on those tips to survive?
    That's what I thought.
    Managers: If you want the tips, throw on that apron and get out there and do that work and take that abuse. Otherwise, hands off the money you don't want to earn.

  2. I can't speak to back in the day, but the truth of the matter that here in today, Managers often make less in salary than the hourly employees they supervise (particular when factoring in hours worked). "Management" does not refer to "Executives" that typically earn a significantly larger salary. Simply put, wrong or right the compensation structure for middle management on down have evolved to include gratuities. A server making $16/hour straight time with $24-$32/hour OT earns more annually than a salaried manager working 50-55 hours a week at $38-$40K per year.

    That being stated. the fact remains that it takes a team to successfully execute excellent service and the team should reap the benefits. It is the team's efforts that supports and allows for any individual's ability to wow a guest and earn a gratuity, why shouldn't the team share in the fruits of that labor?

  3. The larger picture here, is control!

    Wynn, by all accounts, is reasserting the company's power and rights. In the past, over many years, casino management has given certain unwritten privileges to casino employees, especially dealers, floorsupervisor and managers. Cocktail waitress' and other tip earners also enjoyed many undocumented benefits as well. Wynn, because of the push back by dealers over a customer dispute, is making it clear that He, the Wynn, is making it possible for employees to enjoy additional monies beyond the set wage scale. Wynn is making it clear, that He has provided the building, the amenities, the marketings, the high end customers, the training, and setting the standards and the conditions for additional monies on the paychecks, by making tips---all because of what Steve has provided!

    Humble and Appreciation! Some would say, this is dummy up and deal. Yes, in past years! Now? Maybe not! The hospitality workplace is being redefined. Employees at the Wynn are fighting a losing battle on the tip issue! No court is going to side against an employer that has provided as much as Steve Wynn has for his employees, with investment in time, and money, in creating the conditions that allows tip earners to earn tips at the level earned at the Wynn!

    Maybe at another property, employees would have a chance to win (no pun intended) a small victory on a tip issue! At the Wynn? Not in your life time!

  4. If Steve-O wants his Managers to make a wage higher than those they supervise, he should pay them a higher wage, not steal it from other employees to give to his Managers.
    I totally get what the Managers are saying: We ought to make more than those we supervise...udderwise, why take on the responsibility.
    And the whole "box of money locked away in the office to divide later"...
    Jeez, ya think that doesn't cause issues? That's not a system that would endear anyone to Management, and does not seem to be a "business practice" that would hold up under any kind of scrutiny,
    I doubt if Steve Wynn himself had a stake in that box that HE would think it an arrangement befitting a "Wynn Property"... .

  5. I always tip, even for what is sometimes indifferent service. However I really appreciate the European system where workers are paid fair wages and benefits and are not depending on tips to pay their grocery bills. Oh, did I mention they have health insurance regardless of how many hours they work. New Zealand did not allow Tipping of Dealers.

    Pay the Managers and all Employees a fair salary. As this battle moves to the consumer there is the risk they will look at tips as supporting the "Big Boss" and pull back.