Maybe you’ve seen the ads on cable TV. The state of New York has a big marketing campaign, dubbed “Open for Business,” to lure new industry and investment.
Saying it is one thing. Meaning it is another. New Yorkers won’t be pleased to learn their leaders are blowing nine figures — including $40 million in Hurricane Sandy federal relief funding — on fluff and fantastical lies.
One of the fastest-growing businesses in the country has been trying to bring its product to New York for years, to no avail. The Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship stages mixed martial fights all over the world. It wants to hold events in New York, but the state doesn’t sanction MMA fights. They’re illegal there.
So for the past four years, the UFC has lobbied the New York Legislature to bless a sport that already has untold thousands of New York fans. Fights are quite the economic stimulus, attracting visitors and spending and generating big tax revenues for governments. UFC officials and fighters barnstormed through Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse on Tuesday to build public support for the legislation needed to hold fights there. By the company’s estimates, staging an event in Buffalo would generate between $5 million and $8 million in spending.
For the past four years, an MMA-legalization bill has passed the New York Senate. For the past three years, New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has refused to allow a vote on those bills. So why try to tell the rest of the country you’re “open for business” when politicians are getting in the way of commerce? Because Mr. Silver does the bidding of the Culinary union. And the Culinary union has it out for the Fertitta family, which runs Station Casinos and the UFC, because Station properties are nonunion.
The Culinary is engaged in a scorched-earth campaign against Station Casinos, going so far as harassing customers. The company is fine with having a secret-ballot election to determine whether its workers organize, but Las Vegas’ Culinary Local 226 wants no part of any process with integrity. It wants a “card check” vote, complete with intimidation. The Fertittas have refused.
The UFC increasingly finds itself caught up in union politics, which holds that no jobs are better than nonunion jobs. This dispute isn’t about making life and working conditions better for oppressed Station Casinos workers — on the contrary, they’re paid and treated well. This is about political power. Trading card check in Las Vegas for New York fights is a bad deal for the Fertittas and UFC.
New York is “open for business”? Only to those who kiss Mr. Silver’s ring. And it isn’t in the UFC’s DNA to pucker up.