Union spares no passion in this fight

Four representatives of Culinary Local 226 traveled from Las Vegas to Frankfurt, Germany, in late April to attend the annual meeting of investment house Deutsche Bank AG, which owns 25 percent of Station Casinos.

The four sat through nine hours of discussions by the German financial firm. But they left before the meeting ended, without presenting any remarks.

Maybe they wanted to check out the Goethe House or sample some Apfelwein before making the nearly 5,600-mile trip home.

“There were a lot of questions asked and they heard answers about what concerned them,” Culinary political director Yvanna Cancela said.

Deutsche Bank officials knew why the union representatives were there: The Culinary has spent more than a decade trying to unionize at least half of Station Casinos’ 13,000 employees.

The firm’s insiders weren’t surprised by the visit, which might have cost the union as much as $5,860 for intercontinental airfare.

“We know the head of that union keeps failing to organize Station Casinos,” said one source. “It’s become his white whale.”

Before we go all Herman Melville on Culinary secretary-treasurer D. Taylor, the reference to “Moby Dick” is not the first time observers have painted the labor organization as Captain Ahab in its obsession with Station Casinos.

The union hopes it will prevail when the National Labor Relations Board rules on alleged labor law violations at Station Casinos. Until then, the Culinary is using various means to bring the company to the bargaining table. Targets include:

■ Hispanic entertainers. The Culinary placed a full-page advertisement in Billboard magazine to dissuade them from performing at Station Casinos properties. Similar ads cost $14,340.

■ Subway and Capriotti’s sandwich shops and Bagel Cafe. Culinary members handed out leaflets at the businesses, all of which have branches in Station Casinos properties. One flier directed at Capriotti’s didn’t mention Station Casinos. It focused on health department violations.

■ Country singer Toby Keith. In a letter to his manager, Taylor invited the singer, who performed this summer at Red Rock Resort, to discuss the company’s “anti-union” campaign with employees.

■ Deutsche Bank. The union supports a proposed Federal Reserve System rule change that would require the bank to submit annual capital plans. Ironically, the Culinary is organizing workers at the Deutsche Bank-owned Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

The union’s main mark is Ultimate Fighting Championship parent Zuffa LLC. Frank Fertitta III and Lorenzo Fertitta, who own 45 percent of Station Casinos through Fertitta Gaming, are Zuffa’s majority owners.

The union claims the UFC is violating U.S. antitrust laws and filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint. The Culinary’s New York affiliate lobbied against the state legalizing mixed martial arts events. The issue is still pending in the New York General Assembly.

Recently, the union launched unfitforchildren.org, which lists dozens of profanity-laced public comments made by UFC President Dana White.

Cancela said the Culinary doesn’t want to disrupt UFC events in Las Vegas, which contribute about $100 million annually in economic impact and are held in Strip hotel venues where employees are represented by the union.

But that doesn’t sit well with the Fertittas.

In an interview with Heavy.com, Lorenzo Fertitta said management hasn’t blocked employees from unionizing. The workers, even during the company’s bankruptcy reorganization, aren’t interested in joining the Culinary, he said.

The union, he added, “has undertaken a corporate campaign of harassment” against Station Casinos and UFC.

“As bizarre as it sounds, MMA is not in New York solely because of the Culinary,” Fertitta said. “If I were a union member, I would question the use of my dues.”

The Culinary may have larger worries than Station Casinos and the UFC.

In Atlantic City, the Culinary’s affiliate union is in contract talks with the Boardwalk’s beleaguered resort industry. Current labor agreements covering some 11,000 workers expire Friday. Culinary contracts with Strip and downtown resorts covering some 60,000 workers expire in June.

It might be time to for the Culinary to focus its attention elsewhere.

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

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