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Another Culinary stunt backfires; will union ever learn?

It’s high time to ignore the Culinary Union.

Once again, union officials duped us over another stunt stemming from the labor organization’s fixation on locals gaming giant Station Casinos.

The Culinary and its affiliate Bartenders Local 165 have spent years seeking to organize 5,000 nongaming employees of Station Casinos’ 12,000-member workforce.

Every attempt has backfired.

The Culinary planned “a nonviolent civil disobedience action” in front of the Palace Station late Friday afternoon that was “expected to lead to mass arrests.” Instead, a few hundred union members marched along West Sahara Avenue, chanted and hurled insults at the casino company. No one was was taken into police custody.

Friday’s event would have been comical if it hadn’t inconvenienced commuters at the outset of a holiday weekend.

Culinary leaders claimed they were “denied” a request by the Metropolitan Police Department to “use the streets” in front of the resort for a demonstration against the company.

The union said Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo was doing Station Casinos’ bidding because of $105,000 in campaign contributions he received in 2014 from the casino company and its affiliates, as well as his long-standing friendship with former sheriff and current Station Casinos Vice President of Security Bill Young.

One problem: Metro doesn’t issue permits for demonstrations. Those documents are handed out by either the city, Clark County or the Nevada Transportation Department. Metro was just there to keep the peace.

Arrest is also a misnomer. At previous Culinary demonstrations, “arrested” demonstrators are led away, issued a misdemeanor citation akin to a speeding ticket and released.

Once again, this was about the Culinary’s “on-going labor dispute” with Station Casinos, and about union leaders being disingenuous.

I’ve been around long enough to remember when the Culinary was actually a real force behind organized labor, in the 1980s and 1990s.

During a 1984 strike the union all but shut down the Strip, which helped bring about solid wages and benefits for its members. The six-and-a-half year strike against the New Frontier removed the Elardi family and brought new ownership from Phil Ruffin in 1998.

Culinary has been on a roll in recent years, reaching new five-year contracts with Strip and downtown resorts coming out of the recession. In 2014 it gained an agreement with the SLS Las Vegas. Five years of animosity with the owners of the Cosmopolitan ended with a deal last year.

The Culinary boasts 57,000 members, making it Nevada’s largest labor organization.

Station Casinos, however, has been Moby Dick to the Culinary’s Captain Ahab. The union is obsessed with casino giant, but it can’t harpoon the elusive beast.

The Culinary claims that a majority of Station Casinos’ eligible workforce has signed a petition favoring the union and have advocated a card-check process, which allows employees to organize if a majority sign union-provided cards.

Station Casinos opposed card-check, but has said it wouldn’t stand in the way of a secret-ballot vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

The union continues to publicize a September 2011 ruling against the company by an NLRB administrative law judge who found the casino operator committed 88 acts of unfair labor practices out of more than 400 claims. In January 2013, the NLRB said Station Casinos satisfied requirements imposed by the decision and closed the case.

In recent times the union has attempted to insert itself into anything remotely involving the company or it majority owners, Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta, including the brothers’ majority-owned Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The union wanted a say in Station Casino’s 2011 reorganization, but a federal bankruptcy judge in Reno said the labor group lacked standing in the case.

In October 2014, the union attempted to disrupt the grand opening of Downtown Summerlin, which is adjacent to Red Rock Resort. The Culinary has attempted to keep entertainers from performing at Station Casinos-owned resorts and has targeted conventions planners and organizations, trying to steer their business away.

The union wants state gaming regulators to investigate Deutsche Bank, which owns 25 percent of Station Casinos, because the financial institution was fined $2.5 billion last year in Germany for violations that it manipulated the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). However, Deutsche Bank’s U.S. subsidiary, German America Capital Corp., actually holds the stake in Station Casinos and had zero role in the LIBOR scandal.

Nevada gaming regulators politely dismissed the union’s concerns.

Add last week’s rally as the latest Culinary blunder when it concerns Station Casinos.

Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Find on Twitter: @howardstutz

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