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September 16, 2014

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Culinary picks a fight with UFC to get at Station

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Justin M. Bowen

Dana White speaks during the UFC 125 pre-fight press conference Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at MGM Grand.

Click to enlarge photo

J. Patrick Coolican

Culinary Union Local 226 set up a website recently at unfitforchildren.org that details the foul-mouthed tirades of Dana White, president of Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Here’s unfitforchildren.org quoting White berating some poor schoolyard schlub: “Whoever gave you that quote is a (anatomical expletive) and a (homophobic slur with a modifying expletive).”

Culinary asks, “Can you imagine NBA Commissioner David Stern or NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talking like this?”

I like UFC and realize it’s a nice amphetaminic boost for our deathbed economy. But the question put to White is a reasonable one, especially given UFC’s desire for mainstream legitimacy. The Vince McMahon shtick is juvenile.

Another reasonable question, though, from UFC fans: What union? In case you don’t know the history here: It’s no surprise that the big hotel union that represents more than 50,000 workers on the Strip would be sticking the shiv in the side of UFC, which is owned by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who in turn own a controlling stake in Station Casinos.

Culinary has unsuccessfully been trying to unionize Station’s many valley casinos for years, with the fight intensifying in recent years, to include high-stakes federal litigation.

The unfitforchildren.org site is just the latest guerrilla tactic against the Fertittas. The UFC believes the union has used its political muscle in New York state to stop UFC from hosting fights in that highly lucrative market. The union recently called on the Federal Trade Commission to conduct an investigation of the UFC over what it claims are anti-competitive practices.

Station Casinos declined to comment for this column. I’ve done my best to present the company’s views.

We asked White what he thought of the Culinary’s latest attack.

He didn’t disappoint: “It’s gotten a lot worse. They are dragging me into it. They built a website about me. They are spending their union members’ dues on websites about me. Seriously? In this economy — especially as bad as Las Vegas is hurt — we have the biggest economic impact on Las Vegas, more than any other sport, which directly affects their members of the Culinary Union. They’re spending their hard-earned money on building a website about me. Are you kidding me? It’s the most asinine and disgusting thing I’ve seen in my life. It’s one of the things where people always talk about the union being a great idea until you see this dirty (expletive) they do behind the scenes, and they’re doing it with their people’s money. I’m sure there are a lot of positive things they can do with their members’ dues money other than attack the UFC.”

Let’s stipulate that D. Taylor, the longtime leader of one of the most successful union locals in the country, is better suited to decide how to use union resources than Dana White.

In fact, the Culinary has always used these tactics, often successfully. One would think that White would understand pressure points, and how to apply pressure to them. In its drive to organize workers, the union attacks not just the companies it views as anti-labor, but also board members and their companies, major shareholders, subsidiary companies, executives. You name it. Why? Because it’s effective.

White concluded: “They are just trying to make this thing look bad and trying to hurt the Fertittas by lobbying against the UFC and mixed martial arts.”

Correct.

And the Fertittas should certainly understand these tactics. They’ve used their own tough methods, whether dealing with the competition, their creditors or the Culinary Union.

Just this year, Station lobbied the Clark County Commission to essentially outlaw the business model of a pesky competitor — the little slot parlors called Dotty’s that compete with Station for local players. The Nevada Resort Association, at the urging of Station, argued that it merely asked the commission to respect the law that doesn’t allow slot parlors that lack the capital infusion or jobs of bigger resorts. The Nevada Gaming Commission followed suit. Bye-bye Dotty’s.

When the economy tanked and the Fertittas were faced with the loss of the company, they stared down their creditors and in exchange for $200 million they put back in the company, they reduced Station debt from around $6 billion to around $2 billion while maintaining operational control of the company.

The bankruptcy came soon after the Fertittas took the business private in a leveraged buyout, which is when you buy a company by borrowing money using its own assets as collateral.

As for its dealings with the union, the company is defending itself against accusations of dozens of federal labor law violations.

Friday, an administrative law judge issued a cease-and-desist order to Station and forwarded some 80 charges to a full three-member panel of the National Labor Relations Board. The judge dismissed a majority of the charges, including the most serious charge that the company was guilty of ethnic discrimination.

The still-alive allegations include interrogation and surveillance and the firing and disciplining of workers involved in the union drive.

Were supervisors acting unlawfully on their own or in a coordinated campaign? Who can say for sure?

The company issued a statement noting that the judge dismissed the charge of ethnic discrimination and called the remaining charges merely “technical,” while still disputing them. The case is part of the Culinary’s “ongoing campaign of harassment” of the company and its employees, the only purpose being to add to the union rolls and its coffers, Station says.

Back to Culinary and UFC: Does the union care about Dana White’s foul mouth? Of course not. But you can be disingenuous and still be in the right.

If not for the union, whatever is left of our tattered Las Vegas middle class would be gone. Just imagine what the wages of a hotel room attendant would be without the union.

Well, we don’t have to imagine. Our room attendants make 30 percent more than the national average, not including excellent health benefits secured by the Culinary.

Even our nonunion hotels — such as those operated by Station — pay decent wages and benefits because they have to compete with union hotels for the best workers. (In fact, before the recent unpleasantness, Station was on the list of Fortune Magazine’s Best 100 places to work.)

Now let’s presume we destroyed the Culinary and our room attendants made 30 percent less. That’s 30 percent less money going to grocery and clothing stores, soccer clubs — and slot machines at Station Casino properties.

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  1. Another great article Patrick! You clearly shown Station's position on Union matters, and Station's recent bankruptcy gift using that facts and nothing but the facts.

    "Even our nonunion hotels -- such as those operated by Station -- pay decent wages and benefits because they have to compete with union hotels for the best workers."

    True, true, true! Let's not forget that Station's contribution as an employer is huge for locals, we need employers that will hire, we need employers that will treat employees fairly, and have a history of fairness. Many people feel the Fertitas' are not sympathetic to the needs of workers. What is certain, the Fertitas' received a huge gift in the bankruptcy proceedings, they should look upon this as a new begining.

    The money the Fertitas are paying in attorney fees to fight the Union could be going to improving the operations and employee development.

  2. It is obvious the union once again vastly over estimates its influence. Hopefully the other parties see through this self-serving charade by the union and ignore it as the non-factor it is.

  3. Pragmatic...
    Did you read the same article I did?

  4. For many years Station's was on the list of Fortune Magazine's Best 100 places to work. Do some research, you never saw a single Union Hotel/Casino on that list in all the years it was published? Why is that?

    In the last year Stations has hired over 1000 new employs. Except for new places opening no Union Shop has done that.

    Look at all the out of work Union employees. Many of them went to work for Stations. They needed a job. They no longer wanted to pay for the antics of the local union that is doing nothing for them.

    Notice they are no longer going after the Venetian? Why? Was some Union leader "taken care of?"

  5. My understanding is that Station hired about 1000 people earlier this year. The wages there are better than people can get working at Macy's, Kohls, McDonalds, etc. Plus benefits (health insurance)

    Dana White just has to curtail the juvenile gutter mouth. He's probably a good guy, but makes himself look like a schoolyard bully with his mouth. Take the high road like the Fertittas do and just try and tone down the language. There's an old saying that swearing is just a sign of a small mind. Dana is smart so he should know better.

    I'm so so on Unions. I used to think unions were good because it allowed those who have no idea how to bargain for pay or benefits or just about anything in their jobs the ability to have an advocate. Someone who knows how to bargain. In that sense, I like the idea of a union. What I don't like are union tactics, like this article points out.

    If you put Patrick in a UFC T-shirt, he could pass for Dana.

  6. Ah, it just reminds me of the Almanac Singers:
    "There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
    Of goons and ginks and company finks
    And the deputy sherriffs who made the raid.
    She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
    And when the Legion boys come 'round,
    She always stood her ground."

  7. He unions can do what they want, I now only shop at non-union businesses and if they force them into the Union fold thru their thuggery, i will take my business out of state, its worth it even if it costs me double.

  8. Active1,

    Reread the source of your information. Companies "may" pay if they want to know how they are rated against others in their same field. It does not say anyone pays to be on the list or for the basic information. You are misleading people with your statement.

  9. Fact is the non-union station casinos burned there investors big time. They also laid off more then 1000 employees before they hired some back. If you we're a culinary Union member mostly you weathered the bush recession better then non-union members.

  10. Their tactic is to convince parents that White's potty mouth is unfit for children??

    I hardly think any parent that thinks that watching grown men beat each other bloody and unconscious is fit for children is going to be offended by White's naughty words.

  11. Go to any picket site and check those carrying signs. I'll bet 50% have an outstanding warrant for their arrest....... and that's just the females. Goons, and Thugs

  12. Great Job Patrick you hit on all the union talking points like they wanted you to.

  13. Another moronic piece from the far left liberal. The Station employees DO NOT WANT THE CULINARY!!! They by and large like the way they are treated by Station. It's you socialists who are keeping this alive. The Culinary are swine who just want to line their own pockets at the expense of the poorest of the poor in Vegas. They don't care a thing about workers, only their union dues!