The eighty-eight-foot lion that guarded the entrance to MGM's Emerald City casino looked unusually glum on the eve of the Memorial Day holiday, 1993. As dust devils chased early evening commuters down Tropicana Boulevard, Las Vegas police strapped tear-gas masks to their gun belts. Sullen resort security men in blue blazers stood sentry behind hastily improvised little signs declaring the adjacent sidewalk, probably the busiest section of the casino Strip, “private property. ” Earlier in the day, the management of Kirk Kerkorian's $1.1 billion Ozthemed family gambling complex had warned employees about “dangerous chaos, ” while a police spokesman had fretted that “someone might be killed. ”
For months, southern Nevada had been anxiously awaiting this dramatic rematch between the world's largest casino-hotel and the nation's biggest private-sector local union. The year before, the MGM Grand Hotel and Theme Park had broken ranks with the other new megaresorts—Luxor, Excalibur, Treasure Island, and Mirage—and refused to bargain with Culinary Workers Local 226, the 40,000-member affiliate of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HEREIU). Robert Maxey, MGM's famous union-busting CEO,
This chapter was originally published as “Armageddon at the Emerald City: Local 226 vs. MGM Grand” in The Nation, vol. 259, no. 2 (July 11, 1994). It appears here in slightly modified form.