Published Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 | 9:54 a.m.
A massive Culinary Union protest expected Saturday on Fremont Street is on course to run headlong into the American Heart Association’s Las Vegas Heart Walk fundraiser and Rediscover Downtown, a move by downtown businesses to draw people to the area.
D. Taylor, Culinary secretary-treasurer, said workers would be “picketing to protect their health and retirement benefits.”
The union has been in contract negotiations with several downtown casinos for months. Taylor added that despite the fact that “we have proposed no wage increases, none of the downtown owners have agreed to our proposal.”
An email provided to the Sun details how Culinary members will be deployed for the protests, with members from various Strip properties slated to picket at nine downtown casinos: El Cortez, 4 Queens, the D, Golden Nugget, Fremont, Golden Gate, Binions, Las Vegas Club and Main Street Station.
Several downtown business operators told the Sun that the union planned to have 7,000 to 11,000 protesters on Fremont Street. That number could not immediately be confirmed.
Yvanna Cancela, the union’s political director, said about 3,500 culinary members work downtown. The economic portion of their contract, she added, expired in June.
About 4,000 people are expected to take part Saturday in the Heart Walk, said Jason Beland, executive director of the Las Vegas branch of the American Heart Association. He said the race/walk would begin at 8:30 a.m. at First and Fremont streets, then loops twice around Symphony Park to the west and away from Fremont.
Several downtown business operators talked to the Sun about Culinary's planned protest, but few would speak on the record.
Starting out by saying he isn’t opposed to organized labor, Richard Worthington, president of the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance, which is organizing Rediscover Downtown, said it was “unfortunate that their plans are on the day when many downtown businesses are planning a Southern Nevada community outreach.”
One downtown business operator, speaking candidly but wanting to remain anonymous, called the union’s protest “a huge shot across the bow of downtown.” The operator then called the plans “bunk,” adding that “downtown is still hurting, and this only works to the detriment of downtown business.”
The challenge for downtown will be whether the Rediscover Downtown enticements to draw new and old visitors to the area outweigh what some might see as a hassle dealing with a potentially large crowd of protesters.
Some of the deals to be offered during Rediscover Downtown include:
• Complimentary coffee, bagels and a tour of the Las Vegas Design Center and World Market Center.
• Two-for-one drinks at El Cortez. Other watering holes will have drink and food specials.
• On Saturday night, Bret Michaels of Poison will perform a free concert at the Fremont Street Experience.