In the midst of its efforts to organize Station Casinos Inc., Culinary Local 226 is asking a local center to reconsider honoring the Ultimate Fighting Championship, whose majority owners, Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta, also own the casinos.
In the spring, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada recognized the UFC as its corporation of the year.
For more than a decade, Culinary organizers have tried to unionize at least half of Station Casinos’ 12,000 employees, Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson said.
Yvanna Cancela, Culinary union spokeswoman, didn’t return calls or an email seeking comment.
In a letter dated Sept. 16, Culinary officials told the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada’s Board of Directors that it is “alarmed that the Center is honoring the Ultimate Fighting Championship as the corporation of the year.”
“Not only are the owners of the UFC embroiled in a bitter labor dispute with the Culinary union over casino properties, Station Casinos, which provides no benefits to domestic partners through their 2013 health plan, but the UFC has a history of tolerating offensive comments by fighters and company representatives, including anti-gay and misogynistic remarks,” the letter says.
The union also said it was aware that the UFC made a donation to the center.
Ryan Marquardt, spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, said the UFC donated about $200,000 to the center in early 2012. The award by the center to the UFC was presented in late April or early May of this year.
The center will not reconsider rescinding its recognition of the UFC, he said Monday.
Robert Elkins, chief executive officer at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, wasn’t available to comment Monday. But in a statement Raymond Wilmer, president of the center’s board of directors, said, “The partnership between the center and UFC is unlike any other joint effort” they have.
“From the outset of our partnership, the participation by UFC in the life of the center has been about more than just funding,” he said. “They have had an impressive presence at significant events, and they have ensured that this participation has been inclusive and has included the highest level of leadership of UFC. The center, in turn, has committed ourselves to supporting UFC’s long-standing efforts to ensure that their operation is fully supportive of equality and the LGBT community.”
Nelson said the union has been trying to unionize Station Casinos’ employees since the late 1990s.
“It’s the employees’ decision if they want to join a union or not,” she said.
But she said the union in the past two years has taken its efforts to an aggressive level.
They’ve been “harassing” the UFC as well because the Fertitta brothers are owners, she said.
“There’s no reason the Culinary union should have any issue with the UFC,” she said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (702) 383-0440, or firstname.lastname@example.org.