Friday, March 23, 2012

Culinary vs. Station... & the High Stakes for the Entire State

This was the scene outside Red Rock Resort last night.

And this is the new local battle in the national "war" over workers' rights.

On Thursday, the Culinary again went sideways, scheduling a rally at Red Rock Resort the same night the property was hosting a big fundraiser for Bishop Gorman, the Catholic high school, at which the Engelstad Family Foundation was to be honored. [...]

To Taylor, however, this is all just noise.

“We have a very different view of time,” said Taylor, the union’s longtime leader.

“If somebody told me we’d have a six-year strike at the Frontier, I would have said, ‘I don’t think so,’” he said, referring to the legendary walkout of the now imploded property.

If the Fertitta brothers, who control Station Casinos, seem dug in, the workers are just as hunkered down, Taylor said.

“Those workers are not going anywhere, and they feel very strong and they’re extremely determined,” he said.

As Patrick Coolican noted in his Sun column today, Culinary and Station have been fighting this battle on some peculiar fronts. Culinary has gone after UFC (which is also owned by the Fertitta clan), while Station has gone from warm, fuzzy "We Love Locals" TV ads to brutal "We Hate the Union" 90 second commercials pounding Las Vegas airwaves.

And even some of the traditional splits of the labor vs. management fight have been shaken up. Harry Reid has apparently expressed concern about how an extended Culinary vs. Station fight court hurt Las Vegas' image to tourists and conventioneers, while Bishop Gorman's President actually reached out to Culinary to ensure their protest last night could go on as scheduled (without interfering with their fundraiser).

And this war is not just being fought in the media. Culinary has called out Assembly Member Marcus Conklin (D-Las Vegas) for doing a fundraiser with Fertitta family members (one of them being a former Station Casinos executive), This is increasingly high stakes because Conklin wants to become the next Assembly Speaker, but he must first survive a tough reelection campaign in what's now a tossup district. I'm sure he must have appreciated the Clark County Democratic Party passing this resolution in support of Culinary 226, collective bargaining, and workers' right to organize and form unions. (Snark... And by the way, I'll do a disclaimer and note that I'm a member of the Clark County Democratic Party Central Committee.)

Even the AFL-CIO, which once had hard feelings over Culinary's parent union joining with SEIU in breaking away from the AFL-CIO several years back, is now teaming up with Culinary to take on Station Casinos and prevent Station from encouraging union hotels on The Strip and Downtown from going after their unions when contracts are up for renewal. National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was at the Red Rock Rally last night, and he told the media last night that the AFL-CIO is even considering a national boycott of Station Casinos. This is obviously becoming very high stakes for both sides.

And really, this is high stakes for Southern Nevada in general. On one hand, there is reason for concern as both Culinary and Station continue to up the ante in their ad wars and media skirmishes. As Las Vegas' gaming & tourism sector is finally starting to see a steady recovery, do we really want to put that at risk with an extended labor-management dispute?

However, we also can't forget this. Coolican finished his latest Sun column by noting this.

In the end, Taylor’s effectiveness can be found as plain as day in the contracts his members have secured. Our room attendants make 30 percent more than the national average, and unlike many of their peers, they have excellent health benefits secured by the Culinary contract. Those higher wages are also enjoyed by workers at nonunion hotels such as Station and Las Vegas Sands properties because they have to offer good pay to attract good workers.

Station has a lot of advantages in this fight. But don’t expect Taylor or the union to back down. Ever.

Believe it or not, we're unique in making these jobs ones with living wages. In almost every other part of the country, hotel workers are considered "lucky" if they're paid above minimum wage. And make no mistake about it, this is a big deal. Because union workers on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas do earn a living wage, they can afford to spend more and contribute to the greater Nevada economy. Even the non-union shops, like Station and Las Vegas Sands, have had to raise wages and benefits to remain competitive with union friendly casino operators like MGM Resorts and Caesars. But if Station "goes nuclear" on Culinary and encourages other companies to turn anti-union, then our entire economy is at risk of collapsing over the collapse of well-paying, stable union jobs.

There's really a whole lot at stake for all of us in the Culinary vs. Station fight. And we simply can't afford for the workers to lose this one.

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