Leaders of the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas must be frustrated that they can’t convince Station Casinos workers to unionize. Think of all the dues they could be collecting right now, if only they could get their hands into the pockets of another 13,000-plus workers. They’ve been trying for more than 10 years to unionize Station employees, without success. Maybe Station workers have better uses for their hard-earned money than paying dues to support union bosses.
It looks like the union is putting pressure on Station to give up its right to have employees decide on unionization through a secret-ballot election. The union wants workers to sign cards indicating that they want to join, and if enough cards are signed, the union would be in without having to go through an election. The problem with this method is that employees can be pressured into signing a card in front of their co-workers, and even their supervisors. By fighting against the secret-ballot election, the Culinary seems to be admitting that they can’t win without putting unfair pressure on Station employees.
Since they can’t seem to unionize Station the legal way, it appears the union has resorted to tactics that amount to extortion. They’re sending letters to groups scheduled to hold meetings or conventions at Station properties, warning them that “your event may be impacted if a major protest happens while you are at a Station casino” and telling them that every dollar they spend there supports anti-union activities. They’re asking these groups to cancel their events or move them elsewhere. Similar letters have gone out to entertainers, to brides planning to be married there, and to politicians who might be hosting election events at Station properties.
In addition to sending out letters, union representatives have made harassing phone calls to try to convince groups to stay away from Station properties. One medical organization reported that union callers were phoning its members at their offices, pretending to be from the medical organization in order to get the doctor away from patients to answer the call. Then they would try to bully the doctor into pressuring the organization to cancel the conference.
These letters and phone calls contain accusations making Station leadership sound like criminals. Their chief claim is that the company was found guilty of “87 separate unfair labor practices.” The truth is that the union has been filing grievances against Station for years, and last fall a judge from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finally allowed 83 of these charges to proceed to a hearing by the full board. The NLRB hasn’t ruled Station guilty of anything, and isn’t even expected to issue a ruling until the end of 2012. The union also claims that Station discriminates against Hispanics. The judge found no evidence of this, but that hasn’t stopped the union from constantly repeating the claim.
What’s been the result of this? In order to grab more dues money from Station workers, the union is hurting not just Station Casinos, but the entire community. These bullying tactics give our city a bad name, and will encourage companies to hold their events somewhere without union troubles. Meetings and conventions bring millions of dollars each year into our local economy – dollars that help us all. Not only will local governments lose tax dollars from sales taxes, room and car rental taxes, but fewer visitors means fewer customers in the city’s restaurants, bars, and showrooms – the very places staffed by workers the union claims to support.
The Culinary Union should let Station employees decide for themselves whether they want to unionize, and stop holding the whole Southern Nevada economy hostage to the wishes of a few powerful union organizers.
Originally published in Nevada Business Magazine: