Union tactics threaten Las Vegas nursing conference

Helene Neville is a nurse and fitness coach who survived cancer four times, run races across the country, wrote two books, and dedicated her life to promoting “health care givers providing healthy care.”

But the recent Las Vegas transplant found herself smack in the middle of the bitter, long-standing labor dispute between Station Casinos and Culinary Workers Local 226. It’s taxed her psyche beyond any challenge she has faced.

“It’s all very disappointing,” she said this week.

Neville organized the 2013 National Nurses Health Institute: Charting a Course for Change at Red Rock Resort in October. Among the 16 announced speakers is world-renowned nurse-midwife Edna Adan, founder of the Edna Adan University Hospital in Hargesia, Somililand.

The two-day event, which culminates with a half-marathon and 5K run in Red Rock Canyon, is expected to attract 200 to 300 health care professionals.

At least, that’s what Neville hopes.

Culinary union representatives have placed phone calls and emailed speakers listed in promotional materials for the conference, asking them to boycott the event.

Neville did not provide specifics about the contents of the calls, but said they have “bordered on harassment. They have been threatening.”

Why?

The Culinary’s unsuccessful attempts to organize a large chunk of Station Casinos employees has led to a union-sponsored boycott of special events, meetings and conventions at the company’s Southern Nevada properties.

In recent years, union members have contacted big-name entertainers, convention and meeting planners and others to try and keep them out of Station Casinos’ resorts.

Neville’s conference fell into the Culinary’s line of fire.

“Maybe it’s because we used the word ‘national’ in the title,” Neville said. “I’m not really sure why.”

Rukia Dahir, director of the Edna Adan Hospital Foundation in Washington D.C., said a union representative left her a voice mail, asking to speak to Adan and “warning of a strike” at Red Rock Resort.

Adan, the former First Lady of Somalia and former Foreign Minister of Somaliland who was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 2010, is still planning to attend the conference, Dahir said.

Culinary Union spokeswoman Yvanna Cancela declined to comment directly on why the nursing conference was targeted. Cancela cited the union’s travelers’ alert website, which lists all Station Casinos’ properties as “At-Risk Venues” along with resorts on the Strip and downtown where labor contracts expired in June.

When asked about the campaign, Cancela emailed a quote from a Red Rock guest room attendant but did not address the reason why conference speakers have been contacted.

The conference has been a long-standing goal for Neville, 52, who completed a run in June that took her from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico, covering the 1,500 miles in 45 days. In 2010, she ran from Ocean Beach, Calif., to Atlantic Beach, Fla., taking 93 days to complete the 2,520-mile course.

During both runs, she stopped in hospitals to speak with health care providers about exercise and well-being.

This past week has been spent assuring speakers and attendees to keep their plans to attend the nursing conference.

“I wasn’t aware of any issues between the union and the resort,” Neville said. “I thought Red Rock would be a location for the conference because it is near where we are having run on the final day.”

Neville said she asked Red Rock Resort for help and was provided a letter from a Station Casinos’ attorney explaining the situation that she could forward to her convention delegates and speakers

Station Casinos spokeswoman Lori Nelson said there’s little the company can do to “block the untruthful and shameful bully tactics” employed by the Culinary.

Nelson said the company has heard from other customers and meeting planners that have been contacted by the union in connection to various events.

“We believe this type of harassment should be unlawful,” Nelson said. “All we can really do is apologize and sympathize with our customers for the union’s nuisance and harassment tactics. We try and smooth things forward with great customer service.”

She added that any disruption in business at the Station Casinos properties “actually hurts the employees the union says they want to help.”

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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