Editorial: Labor dispute fireworks

Culinary bosses for years have been trying to organize about 5,000 non-gaming workers at Station Casino properties. Apart from the usual demonstrations and picketing, union leaders have resorted to a number of unseemly strategies, even going after the UFC because of its connection to the Fertitta brothers, who own the casino company.

All this is highly ironic, given that Stations has time and again indicated its willingness to allow a secret ballot election on unionization. But Culinary officials have resisted – unions sometimes lose when employees are free to anonymously express their preferences – demanding instead a card-check approach that is easier for them to manipulate through intimidation.

At any rate, one common tactic in the union arsenal has been to bomb Station hotel guests with fliers designed to deter them from patronizing the properties. Last December, two Culinary members were caught distributing such propaganda near guest rooms at the Red Rock Resort. They were charged with misdemeanors.

Now an attorney for the two women is accusing the district attorney’s office of unfairly meddling in a labor dispute and running roughshod over free speech protections. “They’re taking their orders from Station,” said defense attorney Tom Pitaro. “They’ve picked a fight. They’re going to have it. They should have minded their own business.”

Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the Culinary’s secretary-treasurer, picked up the theme. “The district attorney has already made clear that his prosecution is based on a desire to silence speech,” she said.

Balderdash. This case has nothing to do with free speech.

It may be news to Mr. Pitaro and Culinary officials, but the First Amendment does not guarantee unlimited union activity on private property. Union operatives have no inherent right to wander through the halls of a hotel absent permission. Would Ms. Arguello-Kline have us believe that union officials would sit idly by if Station executives were to set up an “informational table” inside Culinary HQ down on Commerce Street?

Property owners must be free, with limited exceptions, to govern what types of activity they allow on their own premises, otherwise the concept of private property ceases to exist. The two women in question were ticketed for being where they were not allowed to be, not as part of some government conspiracy to quash union activity.

Whether Mr. Pitaro seeks to defend his clients by challenging the validity of laws involving trespassing or vagrancy is a separate matter. But his contention that prosecutors have somehow overstepped their bounds or run afoul of the First Amendment is specious, at best.

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