Union presses post-bankruptcy Caesars on benefits, worker protections

By Tracy Rucinski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A union representing casino workers on Wednesday asked Caesars Entertainment Corp's <CZR.O> new board of directors to consider safety, protections against discrimination and other concerns during contract negotiations set to kick off next year.

Caesars' main operating unit last week exited a three-year, $18 billion bankruptcy. The company owns the Caesars Palace, Harrah's and Horseshoe brands with locations across the country but earns the majority of its operating profit in Las Vegas, where contracts expire on May 31, Unite Here said in a letter to the board seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

Unite Here represents 20,000 union members who cook, clean and serve at Caesars' hotels and casinos, including almost 14,000 Las Vegas workers.

Employees' ability to provide for their families was eroded following the 2008 leveraged buyout of Caesars and protracted bankruptcy proceedings, the union said. With the casino group on firmer financial footing, Unite Here said it wants to establish a new working relationship with the company.

A Caesars spokesman said he had not yet seen the letter.

The union in its letter also asked Caesars to come to the bargaining table with proposals on issues such as health care, training, retirement and safety.

Las Vegas was the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history on Oct. 1.

The union also urged Caesars to provide additional protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and immigration status.

U.S. President Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last month that protected those brought to the country illegally as children and is considering ending the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, which applies to more than 300,000 people.

Unite Here said hundreds of employees on the Las Vegas Strip have TPS status, which allows nationals of certain countries already in the United States to remain and work there.

Last August, billionaire investor Carl Icahn shut the Trump Taj Mahal casino after a bitter strike with Unite Here's Atlantic City chapter. The casino had already been struggling amid a broader gambling slowdown in the New Jersey beach resort.

Caesars last week appointed a new board of directors to lead the reorganized company and is targeting expansion in the United States and abroad, though analysts have said it may be too late to catch up with rivals that spent years investing in high-growth markets in Asia.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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