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Musicians, Hotels Settle 7(-Month Vegas Strike

January 23, 1990

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Negotiators for striking musicians reached an agreement Monday with five major resorts on a contract that will cost their union 46 jobs in the city’s premiere showrooms.

The tentative agreement, if ratified by union members, would end a 7 1/2 -month strike that canceled appearances of big-name entertainers along the glittering Las Vegas strip while the two sides were polarized over issues of taped music and guaranteed work.

The tentative contract would allow the resorts to replace live musicians with taped music in production rooms and eliminate guarantees of work in showrooms where local musicians are increasingly being squeezed out by bands many entertainers bring along.

″We’ve suffered, the hotels have suffered and the town has suffered,″ said Musicians Local 369 President Mark Tully Massagli. ″There’s nothing I know of that would make an eight-month strike worthwhile.″

Musicians were expected to approve the pact Wednesday, with some back to work as early as this weekend.

Hotel officials, who won most of their key initial demands, were conciliatory in talking with reporters before the agreement was announced.

″These were not just ordinary cost-of-living negotiations,″ said John Giovenco, president of Hilton Nevada Corp. ″We were dealing with dignified artists being overwhelmed by technological changes.″

The four-year contract calls for 46 musicians who lost their jobs in productions at Bally’s, the Tropicana and the Flamingo Hilton to get severance pay of $28,000.

The pact would also provide a 5 percent annual wage increase in the $654 weekly scale paid musicians in addition to health insurance and pension plan boosts.

The resorts agreed to hire three musicians and a band leader on a full-time basis, but are obligated to hire other orchestra members only on an as-needed basis.

Under the previous contract, musicians could not be displaced more than 14 weeks out of the year by entertainers who brought in their own bands.

Hotel negotiator Larry Levien said the resorts wanted flexibility in the new contract so they did not have to pay musicians when entertainers brought in their own back-up bands. But Levien said the hotels still favor employing local musicians.

″We do not and cannot control the acts themselves,″ he said. ″All that we bargained for was our ability to be flexible when we can’t control what the entertainer places upon us.″

Most entertainers honored the strike against the resort in its early months last summer, but by late summer and early fall some were crossing picket lines to play at previously scheduled engagements.

Among those was Wayne Newton, who canceled his first $250,000 a week engagement at the Las Vegas Hilton, then returned to the stage after unsuccessfully trying to negotiate an end to the dispute.

Other entertainers, most prominently Frank Sinatra, did not cross the musicians’ picket lines.

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