Unions hot under the collar
Forecast calls for high pressure, extreme heat in Southern Nevada labor negotiations
18 February 2013
When Punxsutawney Phil peered out of his burrow in Gobbler’s Knob, Pa., this month, he projected an early spring but didn’t say anything about how hot it was going to get this summer.
It has taken a few remarks and actions from Southern Nevada’s labor unions for local prognosticators to forecast how much heat we’re going to get.
Three recent union actions served as barometers for the high pressure we can anticipate for the tourism industry.
Last week, about 1,000 members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Beverage and Dispensers Union Local 165 got together at Cashman Center to strategize on new contracts at 41 Strip and downtown resort properties.
The mood at the meeting and rally was good, but the union’s press release had a rather ominous tone.
“Based on tough negotiations this year, we believe contract negotiations are going to be difficult,” a union leader was quoted as saying. “We may see some large labor disputes in Las Vegas and maybe even some strikes. We will fight to protect our good contracts.”
Yikes! I was always under the impression that a strike was a last resort.
Fortunately, labor relations between the union resorts and the Culinary have been pretty good, and the two biggest property owners, MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, seem to be genuinely interested in keeping that relationship solid.
The Cosmopolitan, however, is negotiating its first union contract, and talks took a rocky turn that led to an informational picket by the union — the first Culinary demonstration on the Strip in more than a decade — at the end of January.
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail — at least cooler than the ones involved in the Transport Workers Union’s relationship with Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air.
Allegiant management has made no secret of its displeasure with unions and is working on first contracts with TWU for flight attendants and the Teamsters for pilots.
The TWU engaged a battle with Allegiant over whether Hawaii-based flight attendants had to be full-time employees. The union wrote letters to Hawaii government leaders accusing the airline of attempting to dodge the state’s health care benefit laws.
Allegiant agreed to make those flight attendants full time, but contract talks have continued to drag.
The third union skirmish is what’s happening between the Industrial Technical Professional Employees union and the Yellow-Checker-Star taxi company in Las Vegas.
The union has an authorization from its membership to strike in its back pocket but seems reluctant to use it because it may be ineffective and drivers who walk off the job could be fired. The company considers its last-offer contract to be in effect, which begs the question from union members: Why was there even a negotiating session?
But management also must be questioning how its good-faith contract offer endorsed by the union bargaining team could be overwhelmingly rejected by the rank-and-file. That happened twice.
Yes, summertime is going to be hot on the Las Vegas labor front.
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