Court finds Venetian violated law by trying to block rally

WASHINGTON — A federal circuit court on Tuesday ruled The Venetian violated U.S. labor law in March 1999 by trying to prevent more than 1,000 members of the Culinary and Bartenders unions from rallying on a sidewalk outside the casino.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., said The Venetian violated the National Labor Relations Act by using loudspeakers to warn the demonstrators they were committing criminal trespass.

“The Venetian has no property right to the sidewalk that permits it to prevent people, like the demonstrators here, from exercising their First Amendment rights by airing to the public and to prospective employees grievances about the Venetian’s employment practices,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith.

Another violation cited by the court was the citizen’s arrest of Culinary union officer Glen Arnodo by one of the security guards at The Venetian, which was still under construction during the demonstration.

A third alleged violation — The Venetian’s request to Las Vegas police to keep the demonstrators off the sidewalk — was sent back to the National Labor Relations Board for a ruling.

Griffith was joined in the opinion by U.S. Circuit Judges Merrick Garland and Raymond Randolph. The case was argued before the court last October.

The Venetian will not be fined for the violations, according to Boston attorney Michael Anderson, who represented the Culinary and Bartenders unions.

But Anderson said the court’s decision upholds a ruling in 2003 by the NLRB that requires The Venetian to post a notice on its premises for 60 days.

The notice must acknowledge The Venetian violated federal labor law and will no longer interfere with its employees’ rights to organize into a union.

“What I would point out is that this D.C. Circuit Court is regarded as a conservative court, and that’s the reason why The Venetian filed its petition in D.C. rather than the 9th (U.S.) Circuit (Court of Appeals which covers Nevada),” Anderson said.

Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Nevada, said he was not surprised by the decision.

“Hopefully, this is one more situation where the hotel casinos learn they don’t own the sidewalks,” Liechtenstein said.

Ron Reese, a spokesman for The Venetian, declined to comment. A phone call to John Manier, a Universal City, Calif., attorney who represented The Venetian, was not returned.

Patricia Gilbert, a spokeswoman for the NLRB, also declined to comment.

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