Wynn tips sharing policy dispute intensifies
Other tip earners see fight as having broader implications on hospitality industry
Steve Marcus / File photo
23 June 2011
VEGAS INC Coverage
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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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