LV strikes development deal with Culinary union

There’s a classic scene in "The Empire Strikes Back" in which Lando Calrissian, who is hosting some of the rebel protagonists at his mining colony, says: "I’ve just made a deal that’ll keep the Empire out of here forever." Then a door opens to reveal that our heroes are about to have a forced lunch with Darth Vader.

The feud between the city of Las Vegas and Culinary Local 226 never reached such intergalactic proportions, and one could debate which side represents the Empire and who gets to be called Lord Vader. But both parties have agreed to a deal that’s supposed to keep them from tangling with each other like a couple of bounty hunters fighting over Han Solo’s body.

The City Council approved the deal, already signed by Culinary head D. Taylor, on a 4-2 vote Wednesday. Council members Lois Tarkanian and Stavros Anthony opposed it, and Councilman Steve Ross abstained because of a conflict with his role as secretary-treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council.

The "memorandum of understanding" states that the Culinary union won’t sue or pursue ballot measures blocking projects in Las Vegas’ redevelopment area. The union did both earlier this year to challenge the proposed new city hall project, which was also approved Wednesday.

The union also agreed to remain neutral on state legislative matters involving redevelopment.

In return, the city is to create a labor peace ordinance. It would mandate that large hospitality projects in which the city is involved — by providing incentives, for example, or using city-owned land — have contracts with the appropriate union. The city is also going to pay $25,000 for a living wage study.

The agreement will be in place for five years and can be extended for up to four additional years.

It gives the union power if planned casino projects are launched downtown, and it saves the city the headache of dealing with challenges when trying to organize complicated projects that usually involve private developers and outside capital. The ballot measures the union proposed probably would’ve stopped the city from pursuing new projects at all, city officials said, and also could have derailed deals already in place.

Anthony said the city was treading where it shouldn’t. "I don’t think the city has any business getting involved in discussions between developers and unions on whether they’ll unionize or not," he said. "Who else is going to want an MOU with us?"

Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce president Steve Hill said the chamber supported the new city hall project as a job creation engine that will boost the chances of other projects happening, including the planned hotel-casinos. But the chamber is wary of the memorandum the city signed.

"We think there’s some cause of concern there," he said, because the additional requirements might scare off operators who otherwise would be interested in opening downtown.

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

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