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Latest publicity stunt by Culinary Local 226 falls flat

The most recent publicity stunt in the ongoing skirmish between Culinary 226 and Station Casinos had a holiday street party feel combined with an arts and crafts project.

In the past, the union has blocked entrances and streets, which resulted in the Culinary’s leadership being led away in mock arrest. A few years ago, several Culinary workers held a weeklong hunger strike in front of the Palace Station.

In October, the union attempted to disrupt the grand opening of Downtown Summerlin, which is adjacent to Station Casinos’ flagship resort.

So why not try a little gift giving?

Following festive music and rousing speeches, union members cheered as a few Culinary workers — led by union Secretary-Treasurer Geocanda Arguello-Kline and some labor-friendly clergy — marched to the main entrance of Red Rock Resort.

They attempted to deliver a large Christmas stocking containing paper mache coal.

Too bad the stern-faced security at Red Rock Resort wouldn’t let them in.

Don’t they understand showmanship?

The security officers might have been upset after learning the union’s tactics drove a national meeting — with an estimated $300,000 in potential spending — away from a Station Casinos property. The group, bothered by the union’s threats of demonstrations, moved its meeting out of state.

The Culinary and its affiliate Bartenders Local 165 have spent more than a decade attempting to organize 5,000 nongaming employees of Station Casinos’ 13,000-member workforce under the union banner.

It hasn’t happened yet. It likely never will.

The Culinary has made the local gaming operator its No. 1 target.

The union created a website that warns Las Vegas visitors of “the on-going labor dispute” with Station Casinos.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t a labor dispute.

Culinary’s six-year strike against the New Frontier was a labor dispute — the second-longest in U.S. history, in fact.

What the Culinary and Station Casinos have is a difference of opinion.

The union has advocated a card-check process, where employees can organize if a majority of workers simply sign union-provided cards. Station Casinos said it wouldn’t stand in the way of a secret-ballot vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

Meanwhile, the Culinary 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.

What the union doesn’t say is that it filed more than 400 claims against Station Casinos, with 80 percent of the charges being dismissed. The complaints dealt with comments made by supervisors to employees wearing union buttons or making comments perceived to be anti-union.

In January 2013, the NLRB said the company satisfied requirements imposed by the decision and closed the case.

Still, the union continues to label Station Casinos “the worst labor law violator in the history of the Nevada gaming industry.”

The union tried to insert itself into Station’s bankruptcy case in 2011, but a federal bankruptcy judge reprimanded the Culinary’s attorney during a hearing in Reno, telling her in no uncertain terms the labor organization did not have standing in the matter.

Fudging the truth has become an art form for the Culinary.

In a press release promoting the Dec. 11 rally, the Culinary quoted Queen Ruiz, a guest-room attendant at Red Rock. She claimed to have been suspended by the company for speaking out at the union’s October rally. She thanked the union, which helped her return to work.

At the rally, Ruiz — speaking in Spanish and translated into English by Arguello-Kline — made similar remarks.

Station says the story isn’t true.

Ruiz was suspended because of a technical issue concerning her work cleaning hotel rooms, the company says. Following a company-mandated grievance process, Ruiz returned to her job with full back pay. The Culinary filed a charge with the NLRB against Red Rock, long after the situation was resolved internally.

Since this is all about appearances, the union has won few converts.

The Culinary promised to rally more than 2,000 workers Thursday. In reality, 500 to 750 showed up.

Evening commuters were inconvenienced as the union blocked two of the three lanes of eastbound Charleston Boulevard in front of Red Rock Resort for several hours. The action caused congestion in and out of the busy Canyon Pointe Shopping Center across the street.

According to the Nevada Transportation Department, the Culinary had a permit for the lane restrictions. The union paid the necessary fees and provided traffic barriers, insurance, coordination and planning.

“There was no cost incurred to the public,” Transportation Department spokesman Tony Ilia said.

The event took away Metropolitan police officers from other parts of the valley for security reasons.

The union paid for 10 officers to be on hand, but the circumstances required more. A Metro spokeswoman said 28 total police officers — including on-duty officers who were scheduled to be assigned to the Summerlin area that evening — spent several hours monitoring the rally.

Station Casinos is not perfect, by any means, but the union looks like a comedy team.

After 10 minutes or so of chanting at Red Rock’s front door, union members simply left a homemade greeting card and the bag of fake coal slumped against the wall.

Another union stunt that backfired.

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

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