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Federal labor agency orders Station Casinos to negotiate with Culinary Union

The casino operator with a decades-long resistance to unionization is accused of improperly influencing organizing efforts before a failed 2019 vote.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
EconomyGaming
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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has affirmed a previous ruling that Red Rock Resorts violated national labor laws when it successfully tried to persuade workers not to unionize and has ordered three of the company’s Las Vegas casinos to negotiate collective bargaining agreements with employees represented by Culinary Workers Union Local 226.

In an 81-page decision released late Monday, the NLRB unanimously agreed with an administrative law judge’s 2022 decision that Red Rock — through its Station Casinos operating division — violated the National Labor Relations Act by interfering in union organizing efforts. The company’s tactics included threats that new benefits would go away if workers unionized and steaks served to employees imprinted with the phrase “VOTE NO!”

The board ordered that collective bargaining contract negotiations covering non-gaming employees should begin at Red Rock Resort, which has been the subject of active union organizing efforts starting in July 2018.

However, the company can appeal the ruling to a federal circuit court.

The decision is the latest maneuvering of a decades-long feud between Nevada's largest labor organization and the largest operator of casinos whose customer base is primarily Las Vegas-area residents. It also marks the first time that the NLRB has issued a ruling under a new guidance requiring a business to recognize and bargain with a union, even if the labor organization lost an election, if the business was found to have committed a labor law violation. Workers in 2019 voted 627-534 against joining a union.

Ruben Garcia, a professor at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law specializing in labor matters, said the law favors the practice of collective bargaining. He expects the company to appeal the ruling, as it has previously.

“The board is utilizing every lever it has to try to enforce federal labor law,” Garcia said in an email. “This decision shows the many different ways the board can try to remedy unfair labor practices. Eventually, the employer's last resort may be the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In the ruling, the board said Station Casinos used unlawful practices to dissuade its employees from supporting the Culinary’s organizing efforts through a card check initiative, where employees sign cards to support joining the union. If a majority of the workforce votes favorably, then contract talks can begin.

In a statement Tuesday, Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Ted Pappageorge said the ruling “affirms what we have been saying for years — that Station Casinos violated the law and the company must bargain with the union because of its unlawful actions that corrupted the prospect for a free and fair union election.”

In a statement, Red Rock Resorts spokesman Michael Britt said the company continues to believe that the 2019 union election “was a fair outcome that reflected the wishes of a majority of the Red Rock Team Members then and reflects it now.”

“We are reviewing the NLRB’s decision, but the fact that it upheld the findings of its own NLRB hearing officer was not unexpected, and we are likely to appeal,” Britt said.  

The NLRB concurred with the judge’s decision that Station Casinos violated the law by promising the company would implement improved benefits, such as free family health care and an improved retirement plan for Red Rock workers, ahead of the vote.

The NLRB also said Station Casinos “repeatedly threatened all of the unit employees with loss of the new benefits and other reprisals if they voted for the union.” The company was accused of telling workers that a favorable union vote “would be futile.” 

The NLRB also said the actions, statements and threats were made by “senior executives and managers at Station Casinos, as well as by the employees’ direct or more immediate managers and supervisors.”

Updated at 10:00 p.m. on 6/18/2024 to correct the status of contract talks.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. on 6/18/2024 to include Red Rock Resorts statement.

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