If Station Casinos has its way, Flavio Enriquez will become as well-known to Las Vegas television viewers as John Barr, although he isn’t going to obnoxious lengths to put you behind the wheel of a new Toyota.
Enriquez, a security manager at Santa Fe Station, is a spokesman as part of a multitiered, multimillion-dollar advertising blitz by the casino company, using some of its 13,000 employees to reach out to Southern Nevada customers.
The messages began Super Bowl weekend in February with a simple theme, “We Love Locals.”
The topic has recently been altered.
In a subtle manner, Station Casinos is giving Culinary Local 226 a very large middle finger.
Enriquez, along with Sunset Station hotel manager Kelly Smith and Fiesta Rancho floor supervisor Helen Song, are featured on the airwaves, telling customers that Station Casinos is a great place to work.
In the current state of the economy, the message goes, “It’s great to have a job you like.”
The words contradict what the union has been saying about Station Casinos.
Earlier this month, an administrative law judge allowed more than 80 claims of unfair labor practices (out of an original 400 allegations) to be heard by the National Labor Relations Board.
The Culinary and Station Casinos have been locked in a bitter fight over the unionization of a large chunk of the company’s workforce. The labor group is trying to use the ruling as a sledgehammer against the company in the public arena.
The new ads are Station Casinos’ initial response.
Enriquez’s message hits squarely on the union’s claim that the company discriminates against Hispanics.
“My dream was to be an American citizen,” Enriquez says. The ad also features soft, Spanish-style guitar music playing in the background.
“So they started a program to help me and 600 other team members,” Enriquez adds. “Some dream of learning English, or buying a home. They helped us all.”
It’s no coincidence that the other ads feature an African-American (Smith) and a woman of Asian descent (Song).
Station Casinos believes the ads pay off because company research has found success in its current promotional efforts using its employees to speak directly to customers. Station Casinos has been rebuilding its community image following a two-year-long bankruptcy reorganization that kept the company intact with about $4 billion less in debt and a new ownership structure.
The ads also never mention the Culinary. But expect that to change.
The messages from employees could get a little edgier. Meanwhile, folks close to Station Casinos are reportedly planning to “privately” fund “educational” television ads about right-to-work laws in Nevada. Expect the Culinary to be front and center in those spots.
The reason behind the company’s campaign is the union is not waiting around for the NLRB to make a ruling, which could take a couple of years.
Culinary leaders sent the 157-page decision, along with a letter explaining the charges, to Nevada elected officials. The message was clear: avoid Station Casinos for all political functions in the 2012 election cycle or incur the union’s wrath, i.e., forget about that all-important labor endorsement.
“Making a conscious decision as you plan your fundraisers and upcoming events will show those in your district who you side with,” said the letter signed by Local 226 officials D. Taylor and Geoconda Arguello-Kline and Bartenders Union leader Terry Greenwald.
Apparently, Texas Gov. Rick Perry didn’t get the memo. While in town for CNN’s Republican presidential candidates debate and the Western Republican Leadership Conference, Perry stayed at Red Rock Resort and held a big-money fundraiser at the casino’s T-Bones Chophouse.
The union has been sending similar missives to members of various boards of directors around the community, who may have contact with Station Casinos executives.
The Culinary continues to attack Germany-based Deutsche Bank AG, which owns 25 percent of Station Casinos. Ironically, Deutsche Bank owns The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, where the Culinary is being allowed to organize workers.
The Culinary has also continued its barrage on mixed martial arts giant Ultimate Fighting Championship, which is owned Station Casinos founders Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta. Union leaders recently called on beer distributor Anheuser-Busch to pull its Bud Light sponsorship of UFC.
Howard Stutz’s Inside Gaming column appears Sundays. He can be reached at email@example.com or
702-477-3871. He blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/stutz.
Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.