Grand Designs
Expanded from the 8-26-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Updated 2-21-2008

The Culinary Union settlement with MGM-Mirage in Gomorrah South has been big news for several days. It felt good to scoop the rest of the state by somewhere between 12 and 36 hours.

I posted the following at NevadaLabor.com last Wednesday —

TWO AND TWO TOGETHER DEPT. – Dubai World, part of the same Arab oil money which once proposed to manage several major U.S. ports until Americans complained, today announced a $5 billion CASH investment in MGM-Mirage. Does this diminish the chances of a Culinary Union strike on the Las Vegas Strip? Some wise guys are saying don't bet against it. Stay tuned. And remember, you heard it here first. [Complete bulletin]

I had been aware of long-stalled negotiations resuming but did not publish that fact since I received the information off the record. But word of the huge Islamocapitalist investment was all the hook I needed to hang the story on the Barbwire.

Hotel Employees/Restaurant Employees Local 226 Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor was contacted last Tuesday and rushed back to Las Vegas from Reno where he had been scheduled to address the Nevada State AFL-CIO convention on Wednesday morning.

The Dubai World story broke that afternoon. After a 10-hour negotiating session between the state's largest union and MGM-Mirage executives, the tentative settlement was announced. It was ratified by the general membership last Friday.

The impact in the north could be substantial. MGM-Mirage owns Circus Circus in downtown Reno, one of only two unionized properties in northern Nevada.

The Culinary Union won representation at Circus Circus and the Reno Hilton largely because it persuaded corporate management to allow a fair election. Union busting has become a highly paid consulting field, metastasizing when the only former union president ever to sit in the White House – Ronald Reagan – came into office in 1981.


      RENO (8-20-2007) — Because of management stonewalling (standing fast on an offer of a measly 13-cent per hour raise!), Culinary Local 226 has scheduled strike votes on Aug. 30 for its members at the Grand Sierra (formerly the Reno Hilton, northern Nevada's largest gambling property) and Circus Circus in downtown Reno.
      Stay tuned.

Deja vu all over again — More than 600 union protestors line up at Circus Circus to march through downtown Reno on 2-18-2000 in support of Culinary Union contract negotiations. Current Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor led the workers.

The Reno Culinary strike of 1949

Grand Sierra might see Culinary strike
Reno Gazette-Journal 8-21-2007

HOT AUGUST STRIKE vs. Reno Hilton by its security guards in 1996

The U.S. has the most repressive labor laws in the industrialized world. Union membership has shrunk by almost two-thirds since the 1950's. As a direct result of corporate crippling of the only vehicle of worker fairness, the average American has not had an inflation-adjusted pay raise since 1973.

The many municipalities which have passed living wage laws have in effect adjusted the historically high 1968 minimum wage ($1.60 per hour) for inflation ($9.58 today).

Americans pay the most for health care while some 47,000,000 citizens have no health insurance. Our infant mortality rate rivals that of third world banana republics and news reports last week noted an increasing number of U.S. mothers dying in childbirth.

Las Vegas union members in hotels and other fields enjoy some of the best wages and benefits in the country. The Democratic presidential caucus will happen here in January because Nevada's increasing union density makes us a bellweather western state.

Alas, the Las Vegas settlement may not bode well for northern Nevada workers. Sam Shad noted on his TV show last week that MGM-Mirage may have its Reno property up for sale. The Grand Sierra has reportedly hired one of Wal-Mart's law firms and management is already forcing workers to attend mandatory union-busting brainwashing sessions.

Longtime management and casino employees, the non-union part of the Grand workforce, have seen hard-earned wages and benefits cut back.

Workers have told me that Grand Sierra management is daring the Culinary Union to bring it on, bragging that the company is mega-rich and can afford the high price of de-unionizing their hotel.

However, word in the business community is that their financial bravado is much more bluff than buff. Work stoppages wound the pocketbooks of all involved.

While the Culinary Union has not called a strike in these parts since 1949, another much smaller union did walk out of a major hotel just a dozen years ago.

And won.

In 1995, about five dozen security guards walked out of the Reno Hilton. The Hot August Strike at Hot August Nights made international news.

The union won a contract the following month, becoming the first unionized security guards at any casino property in the history of the state.

With minor exceptions, union members in the hotel – stagehands, boiler engineers, elevator maintenance workers and electricians – supported the strikers. Teamsters truck drivers turned around rather than cross picket lines. (Culinary did not represent anyone in the hotel at the time.)

The Beach Boys were the most notorious for breaking solidarity.

The security guards survived outsourcing and a long court battle to win over $3 million in back pay from Hilton, which sold the hotel a couple of years ago to new owners who renamed it the Grand Sierra.

CANDIDATE CRITIQUE. As irony would have it, the Nevada State AFL-CIO held its annual convention at the Grand Sierra last week. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., delivered his usual well-honed performance, noting that a union resurgence is possible with a Democrat in the White House.

However, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson wowed the delegates by checking off positions on a wide range of worker issues, capped by setting a goal of doubling U.S. union membership in his first four years.

SHORT SHOTS: I've built a website to assist the fundraiser for terminal cancer victim Sue Toland.

Her co-workers at Crystal Springs Water are raising money to make her final months memorable. (The courageous lady still works full time.)

THURSDAY 2-21-2008

Sue Toland passed away this morning at 9:30. Watch
ReSurge.TV for additional information. Now free from pain, may dear sweet Sue rest in peace.

Over Labor Day weekend, Crystal Springs staff will hold a yard sale for the colleague they lovingly call Suzie Q. The event is scheduled from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 1, at the company store, 901 S. Center Street in Reno.

A silent auction will be conducted concurrently at Bar USA, next door at S. Virginia and Taylor with a free barbecue beginning at 4:00 p.m.

Sweet Sue's friends are seeking donations and will pick them up. I encourage you to call Jennifer Roblyer at (775) 240-2612 or e-mail her at jenniferroblyer@hotmail.com

Items not sold on Sept. 1 will be transported to 2166 Canyon Vista Drive in Sparks (off Los Altos which is off Sparks Blvd.) where the sale will continue Sept. 2 and 3. Checks payable to Sue Toland may be mailed to Crystal Springs at the above address, 89501. The website will have PayPal capability available later this week.

Be well. Raise hell.

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The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.

      RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006


Copyright © 1982-2007, 2008 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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