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EDITORIAL: Downtown strike

Voting to strike and actually going on strike are two very different things. On Thursday, the Culinary Local 226 did the former. If the union follows through on the latter, it will be the group’s most significant work stoppage in Las Vegas in 30 years.

There’s a reason it’s been so long since valley hospitality workers walked off their jobs en masse: strikes hurt. They hurt businesses and the larger city economy, yes, but they hurt workers most of all. Like most people working hourly jobs for tips, members of the Culinary and its affiliated Bartenders Local 165 are getting by. They can’t afford to leave their jobs for very long, the union’s strike fund notwithstanding.

Yet some 5,000 union employees at 10 downtown hotels — Binion’s, El Cortez, Four Queens, Fremont, Golden Gate, Golden Nugget, Las Vegas Club, Las Vegas Plaza, Main Street Station and The D — and workers at the Margaritaville restaurant on the Strip and at Brady Laundries, which provides linen services for casino workers, very well could go on strike soon.

The hangup in securing new contracts is the Culinary’s excellent medical benefits. Thanks to Obamacare, downtown properties can’t afford them anymore. And who helped deliver the punishing Affordable Care Act and its disincentives for full-time work? The Culinary. Unions used their political clout to help elect President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic majorities that jammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. Because organized labor hasn’t succeeded in persuading Washington to exempt unions from Obamacare’s costs, the Culinary wants downtown properties and customers to bear the cost of the union’s huge mistake.

Will downtown housekeepers and restaurant workers be willing to walk off their jobs in a city with high unemployment? Over the costs of a law they fought for?

The valley’s economy is recovering, with downtown reborn as a place where people live and work. A strike would be damaging and disruptive to everyone. We hope the Culinary is smarter than its recent votes would seem to indicate. No one wins with a strike — especially not the Culinary’s vulnerable members.

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“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing it, it multiplies it.” — Martin Luther King Jr.