City caves to union

Earlier this year, the wealthy and powerful Culinary union launched a bruising legal battle against the city of Las Vegas, endeavoring to place before local voters ballot measures that would have delayed a proposed new City Hall building and placed new restrictions on the downtown redevelopment agency’s activities.

The City Council voted to keep the measures off the ballot, saying they didn’t meet legal requirements and that they would have made it impossible for the city to operate. The union sued, but the city prevailed in court.

Mayor Oscar Goodman said of the union leaders, “They are evil.” He accused them of trying to extort labor concessions by pretending to oppose downtown development projects.

But “that was then,” as the politicians like to say.

In a new deal announced last week and due for an OK by the City Council on Wednesday, the union has agreed not to use lawsuits or ballot measures to oppose a proposed new city hall or similar projects in the downtown redevelopment area.

In exchange, the union, which represents hotel and casino workers, got … precisely the labor guarantees the city accused them of wanting.

“It resolves a long-standing and fairly acrimonious public discourse about the future of redevelopment,” City Manager Betsy Fretwell said. “We think we’ve worked out a pretty good compromise between the two positions.”

The agreement also calls for a “living wage” study — a euphemism for deals that pay union workers more than the average.

The agreement states Las Vegas must enact a “labor peace” ordinance by June 30, requiring that in “gaming hospitality projects where the city has a financial and proprietary interest, the developer must obtain a labor peace agreement with an appropriate union.”

The city is hoping two hotel-casinos will be built downtown in the near future: one on city-owned land in Symphony Park and one where the current City Hall now stands.

Las Vegas has also offered incentives to the CIM Group, which plans to reopen the Lady Luck casino.

This new deal will make those developments more expensive both for taxpayers and for would-be private developers. In determining whether such projects “pencil out,” the green eyeshade gang will now have to factor in the cost of paying the union pretty much whatever it wants in exchange for a promise not to picket, strike or engage in obstructive lawsuits or ballot initiatives.

Mayor Goodman had it right the first time. The city has caved in to the union, here.

The union wants voters to vote for or against a new City Hall? Then let the people vote. The unions want to picket? It’s a public sidewalk. To sue? That’s what the courts are for. Private sector union membership is plummeting all over America — except where they can get politicians to rig the rules, as the City Council proposes to do on Wednesday.

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