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September 1, 2014

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j. patrick coolican:

Culinary Union appears dug in for the long fight against Station Casinos

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Christopher DeVargas

Hundreds of Las Vegas culinary workers gathered Thursday evening in front of Red Rock Resort & Casino to protest Station Casino’s anti-unioness, Thursday March 22, 2012.

Station Casinos faces possible culinary strike

KSNV coverage of culinary strike against Station Casinos, March 22, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

J. Patrick Coolican

Do not underestimate D. Taylor.

That’s what I came away with after an interview with the secretary-treasurer of the Culinary Union Local 226.

The Culinary is in a tough fight, trying to organize workers at Station Casinos.

The company, newly flushed and emboldened after cutting its debt by $4 billion with the help of a bankruptcy court, is hitting back hard with an expensive and scathing ad campaign aimed at union leadership.

The union scored a victory over the company last year when an administrative law judge forwarded charges — of interrogation, surveillance, and the firing and disciplining of workers involved in the union drive — to a three-member panel of the National Labor Relations Board. The company continues to dispute the charges, which it says are merely technical and part of a campaign of “ongoing harassment” by the union.

Union boss: D. Taylor is the Culinary Union's local leader and chief bargainer.

Union boss: D. Taylor is the Culinary Union's local leader and chief bargainer.

Since the judge’s ruling, though, the union, which represents more than 50,000 workers on the Strip, has seemed uncharacteristically off its game and off message. Sen. Steven Horsford, presumably a strong Democratic ally, ignored a union admonition that officeholders not take money linked to Station Casinos, as first reported by my colleague Jon Ralston.

Culinary workers at a downtown restaurant reportedly harangued Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh for putting up his business guests at Station-owned Green Valley Ranch, and the incident leaked into the media.

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.

(Regarding this conflict, I wonder, which better embodies the message of the Gospels: a fundraiser or workers marching outside, demanding their rights?)

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.

Taylor can seem like a distant, enigmatic public figure. Though savvy in both spheres, he seems outwardly put off by media and politics. Whenever I ask him about some candidate or other, his expression always suggests that politicians always want something but will sell you out.

At a news conference Thursday, he attacked the assembled press corps, with a broad smile, as “lazy.”

Maybe I’m falling for an act, but his singular focus on the union and its members is refreshing in a town where everyone always seems to have an angle.

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.

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  1. Station employees DON'T WANT a union! They got the same wages and better benefits of unionized joints. Why would they want to pay dues to these crooks? I go to Station because they are NOT union and avoid places that play footsies with these thugs.

  2. Employers have used the current employment situation to frighten employees (who are fearful of losing their jobs) to take wage cuts, cuts to health benefits and cuts to the number of hours they work every week. This is not right. There are times when a Union is the only response workers have to being exploited and this is one of them. Workers, think for yourself and don't let the casinos convince you to vote against your own best self interest.

  3. Nobody gets up of a morning and says, I think I'll start a Union today, Unions don't just happen, they are CAUSED by people like those running the Station Casinos, and others. To those of you that don't know why Unions are the best thing that can happen to a run of the mill working person you should walk one of their miles, just for 1 day. Corporations, large and small, like to take advantage of these human beings by creating hard choices and working and living conditions. We got away from this atmosphere in the 30'and 40's and even in the 50's. People need Unions when conditions get bad enough to rise up and tell these Bosses, they must share the Wealth being brought about by the same people that are creating it (workers) Fair is Fair, and there is no reason why they cannot share this Wealth. It's all a very simple solution (sharing) Both People and Owners will learn to get along a lot better rather than stay at each others throat forever, all is just a matter of compromise!!!!

  4. I personally know that many employees at Stations are fearful of losing their jobs, are treated poorly by their direct supervisors most of whom are ill-trained and in positions above their skill level. They often 'make-up' reasons to fire people, and the employee has no recourse, as HR is poorly handled.

    Their ad about how many apply for work at Stations is ONLY indicative of the need for work, not because people WANT to work at Stations.

    Their NEW player's card program was manipulated to SOUND good, but in fact, when you go to redeem all of those 'extra' points (10 for $1) - they are worth 1 penny for the point! ripoff!

    Stations sucks and always will. They DO NOT love locals, including their employees.