Whether or not REI Neon, the Michigan company chosen by the city of Las Vegas to develop a sports arena, casinos, hotels and condos on an 85-acre downtown parcel, can pull off the deal remains to be seen. Plenty of eager dreamers have gained city approval for various redevelopment projects over past decades only to see them die on the drawing board.
But now the plan has hit an unexpected roadblock from an opponent Las Vegans might think would be four-square behind the job-creating development — the Culinary union.
The union has filed a lawsuit arguing that REI Neon has not provided evidence that it controls or has agreements in place to purchase all the land in question. The union wants a court to overturn all zone changes and general plan amendments that they city granted REI Neon so it could move forward with the development, which would be located near the corner of Main and Charleston.
Lee Haney, a spokesman for REI Neon, claims the company has all the land under control. “Every one of the parcels we have under option. We have eight figures invested. We have it under firm control.”
In response to the lawsuit, city officials last week were reviewing documents to make sure Mr. Haney is correct. The union maintains about 20 percent of the land in question is not under REI Neon control at this point.
At the very least, the lawsuit could delay the project and increase its costs. While REI Neon has filed a motion to dismiss the matter, the case won’t be heard for at least another month.
So what exactly is the Culinary union up to?
Tellingly, union officials wouldn’t comment for a Saturday Review-Journal story on the issue by David McGrath Schwartz. But the lawsuit notes that the Culinary’s headquarters is within a half mile of the proposed development and that union staff and members regularly use a street that could be closed as part of the new project. Besides, the Culinary lawsuit claims, it is important that “a project is not speculative but rather is real.”
But if you believe the Culinary’s lame explanation for this legal action, you probably expect the tooth fairy to leave you a brand new Susan B. Anthony dollar under your pillow tonight.
In fact, the Culinary union cares about one thing and one thing only: expanding its membership and maintaining its power base. Creating well-paying jobs isn’t enough if those jobs don’t generate more union dues — witness the Culinary’s war with nonunion Station Casinos and its recent effort to scuttle a much-needed Station project near withering Reno.
And, indeed, once you cut through all the union pap, what’s left? A source tells Mr. McGrath that the Culinary would drop the lawsuit if REI Neon agrees to let employees at future casinos on the site organize a union via the “card check” system rather than a secret election.
If the source is correct, this lawsuit is nothing more than a thinly veiled shake-down, the type of extortion regularly perpetrated by thugs and mobsters.
Whether or not REI Neon wants to run a union shop or not is up to them. But if the Culinary union has indeed used the taxpayer-funded judicial system to file a frivolous lawsuit designed simply to pressure REI Neon’s management on the matter, a judge should not only toss this case out immediately, he should sanction the Culinary for such brazen nonsense.