EDITORIAL: Culinary's protests need grown-up leadership

As the long-since-departed “South Park” character Chef would say: “There’s a time and place for everything, and it’s called college.” Indeed, the latest protest by the Culinary union smacks of a bunch of college kids rallying for the cause du jour, thinking it will be really cool to get arrested.

Unlike those typical college demonstrations, however, the efforts of the Culinary Local 226 are far more disruptive to far more people. In fact, some are so disruptive that they’re coordinated weeks in advance with the Metropolitan Police Department. Such was the case again Friday evening on the Strip, in front of The Cosmopolitan. As reported by the Review-Journal’s Chris Sieroty, more than 3,000 union members blocked three lanes of traffic on Las Vegas Boulevard as part of a two-hour protest of the Culinary’s inability to reach a contract with the megaresort.

Police arrested 120 Culinary members who entered the property about 5:30 p.m. and sat in a circle just inside the resort’s Strip entrance. As we have written previously, these acts are counterproductive and inflict economic harm on the valley’s fragile recovery. The idea that these protests hurt only The Cosmopolitan is preposterous; the resort is surrounded by multiple properties on the west side of the Strip that employ many thousands of Culinary workers. If visitors are stuck in traffic on the Strip, they can’t spend money in casinos and hotels — and they can’t tip Culinary members. Blocking traffic, obstructing customers or, worse, harshly denigrating customers — as Culinary protesters did on a couple of occasions last month — only hurt the cause of the union’s members.

No newspaper in this country is a stronger First Amendment advocate than the Review-Journal. Too often, governments require individuals and groups to obtain permits or formal permission to engage in protected expression.

That said, the exercise of natural rights should not impose burdens on others. The Culinary’s demonstrations, planned well in advance, limit commerce and make clear members’ desire to be arrested — those removed from The Cosmopolitan by police were wearing T-shirts that said “I’m getting arrested to provide for my family.” The union’s demonstrations are consuming ever more law enforcement resources, diverting police from other parts of the Strip and the valley, limiting the ability of police to patrol or respond to calls. That drills taxpayers twice: first by choking off commerce, then billing the public for the exercise. The Culinary insists it is engaging in civil disobedience, but the campaign is better described as economic sabotage.

Forcing the closure of travel lanes on the Strip on a Friday night is unreasonable. Slamming both tourists and taxpayers is not a constructive negotiating strategy. It’s time for Culinary leaders to stop acting like college kids and start acting like adults.