The number of union workers has been in steep decline in the United States, particularly in the private sector. In 2016, just 10.7 percent of Americans belonged to a labor organization, down from 11.1 percent in 2015 and 20 percent in 1983. Only 6.4 percent of nongovernment employees were unionized as of last year.
It doesn’t help when union bosses shower employee dues money on their pet causes, many of which are far removed from the interests of those same workers. For instance, in 2010, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spent one-third of its $200 million annual budget on political activity, the vast majority of the progressive variety.
Closer to home, the Culinary union is a major player in state and local politics thanks to money extracted from the membership. On Monday, the union sent out a news release touting its latest quixotic endeavor: an attack on Trader Joe’s and Gordon Biersch Brewing Company. The union is pushing a national, yearlong campaign, dubbed “Trumper Joes,” intended to pressure the specialty grocery chain to stop selling “beer brewed by the billionaire friends of Donald Trump and his Republican cronies.”
The union has gussied up its effort with the sash of social justice, claiming that those behind Gordon Biersch, founded 30 years ago in Palo Alto, Calif., have “helped propel into power political leaders who attack immigrants, women, the environment, LGBTQIA+ communities and working families.”
Far from being some virtuous crusade to right injustice, however, the Culinary is simply trying to smear an old foe. The Fertitta family, which runs Station Casinos, has a controlling interest in Gordon Biersch. The Culinary has waged a long and tired harassment campaign against the Fertittas because they have refused to let the union try to organize their properties through a rigged “card check” process rather than more democratic, secret ballot elections.
For years, the union has sought to undermine anything and everything Fertitta, even going so far as to try to turn their vendetta on the UFC, once owned by the brothers. Union officials have tried to shut down convention activity at Station properties, a tactic that has repercussions for the entire local economy. They’ve pulled counterproductive stunts such as inconveniencing motorists by blocking off streets while protesting in front of Station casinos. Union members even attempted to disrupt the opening of Downtown Summerlin in 2014 because Red Rock Resort, owned by Stations, is nearby.
Nevada remains one of the few bright spots for organized labor, in large part because of the Culinary union. But if union officials continue to waste time and treasure on ridiculous political charades, how long before the rank and file’s tolerance begins to wear thin?