City leaders fear union pickets will ruin downtown celebration

Downtown Las Vegas boosters are worried that a day planned to showcase local businesses could turn into a showdown between union workers and casinos on historic Fremont Street.

Members of Culinary Local 226, which represents about 60,000 workers, plan 10 hours of picketing Saturday that will coincide with Rediscover Downtown, a highly publicized attempt by downtown businesses to attract new visitors to the burgeoning area.

“People don’t want to go where there is a perception of conflict, maybe a picketing is perceived as not really very friendly,” said Rich Worthington, chairman of the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance, an organization for downtown businesses that’s producing Rediscover Downtown Day.

It’s a daylong event that starts at 7 a.m. with the Las Vegas Heart Walk and continues through the day with businesses offering discounts and incentives to customers aimed at attracting more people downtown.

The picketing is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Worthington was joined Monday by Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who said longtime Culinary Secretary-Treasurer D Taylor shouldn’t picket during the promotional event.

“D is a fine man who represents his people, but this is the wrong time,” Goodman said.

Taylor and others from the Culinary aren’t backing down. On Monday evening, an invitation to the planned picket dominated the home page of the union’s website.

The invitation linked to a Facebook page about the picket that at 6:30 p.m. Monday had seven people confirmed to attend.

And Taylor said in an email that the union workers are looking out for their health and retirement benefits, not looking to scare visitors from downtown.

“We have the utmost respect and have been the biggest supporters of downtown. Just like in years past, we have a contract dispute, and workers will be picketing to protect their benefits,” Taylor said. “We were hoping to have this resolved without this kind of escalation. We have tremendous respect for all that’s happening downtown and feel we’ve been a big part of it.”

Yvanna Cancela, the union’s political director, said the workers aren’t asking for wage increases but are seeking to “protect our health and pension benefits.”

Cancela said the union is picketing to inform the public about the contract dispute, not drive them away, and is looking out for the good of the community.

“The standard of living created by good union wages and good union jobs is what makes Las Vegas a pretty OK city to work in,” she said. “Anytime that is threatened, it could affect the entire city.”

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at
bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285.

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