‘Television’ Category

Could something like the Writers Guild strike happen in Las Vegas?

November 8th, 2007

The Writers Guild of America strike is gaining steam and support, especially after this morning’s showing of solidarity by so-called "show runners"–the writer-producers behind such addictive hit TV shows as "Lost" and "The Office." The Los Angeles Times reports that "100 or so writer-producers of some of TV’s highest-rated programs ratcheted up the pressure on the studios and producers."

This is a sharp change from the last major WGA strike in 1988, when show runners continued to work, causing a rift with the striking writers and appearing as nothing more than studio lackeys. However, with the writer-producers joining the WGA picket line, Hollywood’s production machine is grinding to a halt even faster than initially predicted, effects of which will become painfully obvious to regular TV viewers by as early as next week (daily shows such as "The Tonight Show" and Bill Maher’s program already have gone into reruns).

Unlike Las Vegas, Los Angeles–despite current appearances–is not a one-industry town. However, what happens in L.A. affects an industry nationwide, and viewers globally. Were such a strike to happen in Sin City, where effectively all casinos were forced to shut down, the exact inverse effect would be felt. Sure, a number of American’s vacation plans might change, but the result would ape that overused Vegas slogan, "What happens here, stays here."

And what would "happen" here would be the total shut-down of life as we know it in Las Vegas. Think about it: How many tangential industries seemingly unrelated to gaming and hospitality would be negatively affected by such a city-wide strike? For one, the media and nightlife production company for which I work would be immediately impacted: If the casinos shut down, their nightclub revenue evaporates, our advertisers pull ads, our magazines can’t pay for themselves. Our nightlife photography website will have no new photos to add since the clubs in the casinos are closed; and all the club advertisers on that site likewise disappear. Our nightclub VIP service stops business, immediately.

It would go beyond that–without the hundreds of thousands of casino employees working, local retail takes a dive. Without the tourists, even the high-end retail on the Strip suffers. The impact would be immeasurable.

According to the International Herald Tribune, the last time the Las Vegas Culinary Union–which represents about 60,000 casino, hospitality, hospital and airport employees in Vegas–organized a citywide strike was in 1984, which lasted for 67 days. There currently exists no union for casino workers such as dealers (though that could change, according to this Las Vegas Sun article), one day there could be, and one day the joining of forces could cause tremendous havoc in Sin City.

For now, we’re safe–the last potential Culinary strike, prompted a few months ago, mainly because of Downtown casinos, was averted by successful talks at the negotiating table. But as Hollywood has proven, things can change at the drop of a hat.