Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2014

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Business-funded group springs up to push back on union tactics

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Ed Komenda

Culinary Union members and supporters protest in front of the Cosmopolitan, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013.

Those guys walking into the Cosmopolitan are a bunch of “losers.”

They’re as fat as “beached whales.” They’re flat-out “ugly.”

That’s the type of language you can hear in videos showing Culinary Local 226 workers antagonizing tourists as they patronized the resort, which is in negotiations with the union.

The multiple videos sparked dozens of stories in the media, but little has been said about the new group that sent them to the press and orchestrated the ensuing media campaign.

That organization is Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs and it has vowed to become a force in Nevada politics to “stand up for the workers and small-business owners in the state.”

Launched in September, the group’s crusade to get the Culinary to change its tactics is just one of several initiatives it's undertaking.

Zachary Moyle, communications director for the Alliance, said the group also will educate voters about the negative effects of a 2 percent business tax that will be on the 2014 ballot.

And Dave McGowan, the group’s director, said the organization will also look at labor unions in North Las Vegas, a city mired in financial woes.

Cosmopolitan Culinary Protest - July 31, 2013

Cosmopolitan housekeeper Janet Nunez speaks as the California School Employees Association, in town for a convention, join Culinary workers to picket the Cosmopolitan Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Launch slideshow »

“The city of North Las Vegas is nearly bankrupt thanks in large part to Big Labor’s unrealistic demands and over-inflated salaries,” the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs’ website claims.

Some observers have labeled the group as anti-union.

The Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs says this isn’t the case.

“Just because we oppose the decisions of union leaders doesn’t mean we oppose the workers,” McGowan said. “We’re not advocating that the Culinary can’t have a deal with the Cosmo; we’re just dealing with the way they’re trying to get it. … It’s a cliche thing but (tourism is) the lifeblood of our economy. If those ‘beached whales’ decide to go to Atlantic City, nobody has jobs.”

Their campaign to get the Culinary union to change its tactics appears to have been somewhat successful. The union staged a sit-in at the Cosmopolitan last week, a change from the picketing events in which Culinary members shouted at tourists.

The group has assembled some familiar names from Nevada’s political world, but how they get paid is somewhat of a mystery.

Here’s a look at who they are and who’s behind them:

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Dozens of Culinary Union members sit beneath the chandeliers just inside the Cosmopolitan as part of a protest, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013.

Who works for the Alliance?

The Alliance’s employees are Moyle, Ron Futrell and Dave McGowan — who all have backgrounds in Republican politics in Nevada.

McGowan says he’s a dues-paying member of the Teamsters’ union. He has worked for numerous Republican candidates and is a former political director of the Clark County Republican Party.

Futrell is a radio host and media consultant. In 2012, he worked as Republican congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian’s spokesman.

Moyle is a consultant who worked for 2012 Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman. He was also executive director of the Clark County Republican Party from 2006 to 2009.

The Alliance’s parent organization is the Workforce Fairness Institute, a D.C.-based nonprofit in the same tax category as chambers of commerce and other business leagues.

That group has top staffers who also work as consultants with Republican clients. Last year, the group’s president was Fred Wszolek and the director was Kathryn Gage, who are both principals at WPP Strategies. That firm produced work for 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Moyle said it’s a “valid point” that nearly everybody affiliated with the two groups leans conservative.

“We have conservative ideals and we want to promote a good business climate, and I believe that there are a lot of union workers who want good representation and are in need of a fairer business climate,” he said. “There’s somewhere in the middle that will hopefully open up where business and workers can come together.”

Who’s paying these guys?

The short answer is: The Sun doesn’t know, and the Alliance won’t tell the Sun.

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The Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs provided this image of the Culinary protest on Oct. 5, 2013 outside of the Cosmopolitan in which members of the union called tourists “losers” and “jerks” for going into the Cosmopolitan.

But that’s not the whole story.

The Workforce Fairness Institute says it gets its money from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other “business owners who enjoy good working relationships with their employees, and would like to maintain those good relationships without the unfair interference of government bureaucrats, union organizers and special interests.”

Moyle echoed the parent organization’s line about donors when the Sun asked him about the organization.

“We’re funded by business advocates who have good working relationships with their employees,” he said. “It’s important to know that we’re not a blank-check group. We’re funded by business advocates. We do not work for the casinos. We are a group that represents Nevada businesses.”

David Damore, political science professor at UNLV, said it’s pretty common for groups to conduct education campaigns that almost approach direct advocacy in elections.

“There’s these sort of groups with unclear ties to businesses or individuals and they keep popping up and trying to have success,” he said.

Although Moyle said the Cosmopolitan does not give them money, he declined to name any other specific businesses that do or do not donate to the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs.

Other groups involved in politics in Nevada also don’t disclose their donors.

But labor unions are hoping the Alliance will be more forthcoming.

“I am just hopeful that if they truly want to be a part of the dialogue on workers’ rights, they will be more transparent,” said Yvanna Cancela, communications director for the Culinary Local 226.

Click to enlarge photo

Two housekeepers who declined to give their names, watch as the California School Employees Association, in town for a convention, join Culinary workers to picket the Cosmopolitan Wednesday, July 31, 2013.

Other union advocates were not so kind.

Dan Hart is a political consultant working with the Nevada State Education Association, the state teachers union, to pass the 2 percent margins tax on the 2014 ballot. Hart argues that the tax will get big businesses to pay into the school system. And he said the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs is a front for corporations who don’t want to pay a tax in Nevada.

“This is all a very self-serving approach by large corporate extreme right-wing interests that are affiliated with the Tea Party,” Hart said. “We’ve seen a lot of hustlers in Las Vegas, but these guys take the cake. They won’t tell us who their donors are. They won’t tell us what their ultimate goal is. This is another group of hustlers.”

McGowan, however, said that the funding is a distraction from the actual mission, which is supporting workers and small businesses.

Moyle acknowledges that others may see the group as anti-union, but he said the mission is to support workers, not union officials.

“We support the idea of workers being able to unionize if that’s what they chose to do,” he said. “Our contention is, in doing so, are they represented well or are they not?”

Moyle said the media attention based on the videos of Culinary protesters has attracted a lot of attention.

But whether that translates to staying power in Nevada is another story.

“They’re trying to have more of a public campaign, run a media strategy and we’ll see if they have staying power,” Damore said. “I guess what I question is: What other tricks do they have in their bag here?”

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