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November 26, 2014

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City, Culinary Union pact would mandate ‘mutual support’

After the ballot initiatives and the lawsuit, after all the harsh words and the animosity built up between the Culinary Union and the city of Las Vegas, the two parties, once seemingly intractable enemies, are on the verge of officially making peace.

A “Memorandum of Understanding” between the city and the union is on the agenda for the Dec. 2 City Council meeting -- the same meeting at which the council is set to finalize the new City Hall project, the project the Culinary fought so hard to quash.

The agreement between the parties, which would have a five-year life span, includes several key features -- the most significant of which is a clear quid pro quo: Allow the Culinary to unionize at future casino/hotels downtown, and in return, they won’t picket or strike or sue the city.

Despite their virulent past disagreements, the pact states that “all parties believe it in their mutual best interest to reach agreement in an amicable and positive manner, such that the parties may mutually support each other in key endeavors such as the City Hall project and labor peace agreements so that economic expansion may continue to the benefit of workers and citizens in the City of Las Vegas.”

The pact would mandate a “labor peace ordinance” pertaining to future gaming hospitality projects in which the city has a financial interest. As part of its complex deal to build a new city hall, the city has agreed to sell a parcel of land on Symphony Park to the developer Forest City Enterprises, in return for allowing them to build a casino/hotel on that site.

Such an agreement between the city and the Culinary would in essence mandate that Forest City allow its hotel workers to vote whether to bring in the Culinary to represent them -- in return for agreeing not to strike or picket the project.

The agreement also would mandate that the union “refrain from pursuing any further lawsuits, initiatives or referenda regarding opposition to city hall, the (Redevelopment Agency) or related matters.”

The seven-pronged agreement also would include the formation of a citizens advisory committee to provide input on the Redevelopment Agency‚s future proposed projects.

In addition, the Culinary agreed not to lobby the state Legislature regarding legislation affecting the city’s redevelopment projects, except when both parties agree that the union’s involvement would “further the interest of a balanced and successful redevelopment process.”

The pact also mandates that the city work with the Clark County School District to make sure the schools have a “mechanism of support” when future redevelopment plans are considered.

In a written statement, D. Taylor, the Culinary’s Secretary-Treasurer, noted the importance of protecting schools.

“We are pleased the city it making steps towards improving its process and we think the agreement signals that in the future there will be meaningful dialogue in the redevelopment process,” said Taylor.

The memorandum -- which is similar to those different unions have formed with other large metropolitan areas -- “addresses our key concerns and ensures citizens will have a voice when tax dollars are involved and city services and schools are affected.”

The animosity between the parties has been ongoing for about a year, at which time the union made it clear it would oppose the new city hall project.

The project is part of a broad, $1 billion-plus downtown redevelopment plan that also includes the possible development of the Symphony Park hotel/casino, a sports arena and entertainment district, new office buildings and the Mob Museum.

The plans in whole are generally considered one of the biggest legacies of Mayor Oscar Goodman, who regularly became apoplectic when discussing the Culinary’s opposition. Several times Goodman resorted to name-calling, at one point referring to Taylor and other Culinary leaders as “evil” for opposing his plans.

The Culinary in January filed petitions for two ballot questions. One, a referendum, would have prevented the city’s redevelopment agency from authorizing new projects. The other, an initiative, would have forced the city to gain voter approval for “lease-purchase” agreements worth more than $2 million.

That measure was aimed directly at Goodman’s new city hall plans.

Both measures were approved for the June 2 ballot by he City Clerk’s office -- prompting the City Council to strip the measures from the ballot. That in turn caused the Culinary to file a complaint with the Nevada Supreme Court to have the measures reinstated. The union lost its court fight.

Meanwhile, the parties were engaged in sporadic negotiations to try to find a peaceful middle ground.

Those talks started last December, soon before the Culinary’s petitions were filed. By early March, when the city dumped the measures from the ballot, the talks had fallen apart.

Obviously, the talks resumed at some point. Neither side is saying exactly when that was, or providing further details about the talks.

At the discussion last December between Goodman and Taylor, Taylor has said he gave a list to the mayor, which largely mirrors the memo the City Council is set to approve next week.

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