Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fast Justice?

Owly Images

(Image courtesy of @ydc226)

This is apparently the scene outside Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas today. Check #stationfast on Twitter, and you'll see the newest front in the ongoing conflict between Station Casinos and Culinary 226. Here's what Culinary has to say.

Thirteen workers from Station Casinos along with five union members will sacrifice food as part of the continued demand for a fair process for Station workers to decide whether they want representation.

Milton Farfan, a dishwasher at Red Rock Casino, said, "The truth-yes I'm a little worried about doing this for seven days. But it's a worthwhile sacrifice. It's a way to show the company that we're ready to do all that's necessary to be given a fair process. We're here to represent each one of our co-workers at Stations Casinos."

Thousands of workers at Station Casinos have signed a public petition asking for a fair process. A fair process would let workers make their own decisions as to whether to unionize in a way that is free from management interference, intimidation, bullying, or litigation. Over the years, tens of thousands of Las Vegas casino resort workers have utilized a fair and non-confrontational process, rather than NLRB litigation, to decide whether to have union representation with the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165.

The fasters will be supported by community and clergy leaders throughout the week.

As we discussed last month, this promises to be an epic continuing struggle over workers' rights. Both Culinary and Station have dug in their respective heels. But now, Culinary may be taking it to a whole new level by starting a week long fast.

But hey, what's a union supposed to do? And especially here, what are Culinary organizers and Station workers supposed to do when Station spends millions of dollars on TV ads bashing union organizers? Station may have deep pockets for media consultants, political strategists, and TV commercials. Culinary, on the other hand, has had to rely on its activists to snag "earned media" with events and social networks.

In many ways, this illustrates what this whole fight is about. Earlier today, Jon Ralston reported that the Fertittas are ponying up to participate in Sheldon Adelson's and Steve Wynn's $25,000+ per ticket fundraiser for House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Burnt "TEA") PAC on the 27th. Certainly if Station bosses can afford an uber-pricey Republican fundraiser with Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn, they can continue to go all in on their "nuclear war" against Culinary.

Culinary probably can't compete with Station in the money department (despite what Station's TV ads may suggest), so they and the Station workers have had to find other ways to tell their side of the story. So now, we're seeing a fast just outside the original Station Casino.

As we've discussed before, there's so much at stake here. One of the only reasons why this experiment we know as "Las Vegas" works is because hospitality workers here are paid far better than the national average (which is about minimum wage with zero benefits). Despite what some on the radical right suggest, the influence of Culinary 226 on this town has been a net positive in terms of securing so many well paying hospitality jobs both on and off The Strip. Without Culinary negotiating well paying union jobs at union casinos, which also forces the non-union casinos to bump up their salaries and benefits to remain competitive, it would likely be far more difficult for workers to survive in Clark County. Remember that hospitality workers are also local consumers and taxpayers, so our fortunes are tied to theirs even if we don't work anywhere near Las Vegas Boulevard.

So Station workers and Culinary workers fast as we wonder how much longer this conflict must last before it can reach a just resolution.

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