The latest in a continuing series of protests against Station Casinos in Las Vegas was staged Thursday evening to protest the company’s policy regarding unions. It is a fight which has seen multiple protests in recent months, including an appearance at the Gay Pride parade attempting to put pressure on the casinos to allow over 5,000 employees, primarily culinary workers, the opportunity to vote on whether or not they want to unionize. This protest ran into some problems with Las Vegas police after organizers were denied a permit which would have allowed them to close a portion of Charleston Boulevard for the march. Police sources claimed that it was denied both because closing a highway is not a common practice for them except for in cases of road construction, and that the request was made only 24 hours before the planned march. Organizers claim that the request was submitted earlier, but ended up marching in the right of way for their protest. The march ended with a rally at the Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa, owned by Station Casinos and home to their corporate offices.
The crux of the dispute between the Culinary Workers Union, Local 226 and the casinos is their policy regarding the possibility of forming a union for their workers. Bethany Khan, Director of Digital Strategy for the union and one of the organizers, stated that this was not a protest to allow a union, but to allow workers to have the right to vote and choose whether to have one. She said it is standard practice with most casinos to allow a “fair process,” giving employees the opportunity to choose whether or not to unionize. She claims that this is denied the Las Vegas Station workers, and cites 88 claims made against the casinos by the National Labor Relations Board where they were found guilty of violations of workers’ rights as a reason that there might be the need for a union. The company claims that a majority of their employees are not interested in joining a union.
Marchers left the Palo Verde High School just prior to 6 pm local time with a police escort ahead and behind, including mounted police. Protesters carried signs, some in costumes and some with bullhorns. Many chanted and sang as they marched, and the group was even accompanied by a small band with multiple drums as they converged on the Red Rock. Once arriving at the casino, the few hundred protesters heard speakers as the Las Vegas police watched and kept the crowd from traffic. There were three people cited and detained, but none of them were actually sent to jail.
While there has been no movement from Station Casinos with respect to changing their policies, the continued protests are increasing awareness of the fight around Las Vegas and the Culinary Workers Union shows no signs of slowing down. Despite some complications over the acquisition of a permit for the closing of the highway, organizers claim the event a success for the publicity it generated for their cause.
By Jim Malone