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Robots are pouring drinks in Vegas. As AI grows, the city's workers brace for change

The Culinary Union is prepared to strike over AI

Unions in Las Vegas are closely watching the changes. The largest union in Nevada, the Culinary Union, represents 60,000 service and hospitality workers in Las Vegas and Reno. Later this year, it hopes to have a new negotiated contract that includes protections against AI replacing jobs.

"We had a huge fight about tech in our previous contract. We're going to have the same fight this time around," Ted Pappageorge, the secretary-treasurer of the union, told NPR.

In its last contract in 2018, the union pushed for companies to agree to a six-month warning for workers for new technology introduced in the workplace, as well as free training on how to use the new technology.

"How do our folks make sure that the jobs that remain, that we can work them? And that we're not thrown out like an old shoe? We're not going to stand for that," Pappageorge said.

While the precise impact of AI on service work is not yet clear, the union is prepared to make AI an issue to strike over when it negotiates its new contract, Pappageorge said.

"We'd like to say we're going to be able to get an agreement. But if we have to, we're going to have a big fight and do whatever it takes, including a strike on technology," he said.

"We have a lot of guests that are regular guests, and they come for the personal interaction. They don't come for the technology," said Holly Lang, a cocktail waitress at the MGM Grand. "There's some things you can't replace."

Lang said she's confident the Culinary Union will establish good protections. "A lot of people are concerned that it'll take our jobs but we have more comfort in the fact that we have contracts to protect us ... we've fought hard to keep our jobs for a long time," Lang said.

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