LAS VEGAS -- The Culinary Union may have won the latest round in its long-running labor battle with Station Casinos, Inc., but the union still has a lot of work to do in its campaign to unionize the Las Vegas-based gaming company, a labor industry observer said Friday.
The National Labor Relations Board ruled Station Casinos violated federal labor law in dozens of cases in its response to union-organizing efforts. However, the ruling does little to move the union and gaming company closer to settling their differences.
"The union has had a big organizing drive going for a long time," said Jeff Waddoups, professor of economics at the Lee Business School at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "What they want is a neutrality agreement and card-check vote instead of an election."
A three-member panel of the NLRB issued an order Tuesday rejecting an appeal by Station Casinos and upholding most of the findings of an administrative law judge. The judge ruled in September 2011 there had been 82 violations.
In the case decided Tuesday, the Culinary Union had initially filed 400 allegations against Station Casinos, most dismissed by the administrative law judge or withdrawn by the union prior to trial.
Station officials downplayed the significance of the ruling.
"The allegations brought by the Culinary Workers Union to the National Labor Relations Board are yet another strong-arm tactic in the union's ongoing campaign of harassment against our company and aggressive quest to organize our team members," said company spokeswoman Lori Nelson.
Nelson said the NLRB order is not a "verdict" as described by the union, rather it only requires the company to post a "Notice to Employees."
The notices inform workers that federal law gives them the right to form, join or assist a union; to act together with other employees for workers' benefit and protection; and to choose not to engage in any of these protected activities.
The notices also say Station Casinos will not engage in a number of practices, including threatening employees or losing benefits if they choose the union as their bargaining agent.
"This is a tremendous victory for all workers at Station," said Dawn Vaseur, a 12-year Santa Fe Station employee, in a statement. "We hope this decision will lead to a fair process to decide whether to have union representation without management interference and intimidation."
Station Casinos, which operates 17 properties in Southern Nevada, is weighing its options, which could include an appeal to federal court.
The Culinary Union has been trying to organize Station Casinos and its 13,000 employees for more than a decade. In the past few years, the union has held rallies in front of Palace Station and Red Rock Resort, and has protested against local companies that do business with the casino company.
Station Casinos has said if the union wants to represent its workers, it needs to do so through an election process. The Culinary Union wants a neutrality agreement and a card-check procedure similar to those used at Strip hotels.
"That is a huge deal if the Culinary Union could get Station Casinos to agree," said Waddoups.
Waddoups said that if they get it, chances are "very high" the union would succeed. He cautioned the union's chances of success were lower with an election.
He said it's easier for employers to defeat a union election by using captive audience meetings and hiring anti-union consultants. If the union is successful, Waddoups said, employers can delay it by challenging the process in court.
Waddoups said a unionized Station Casinos would be a "huge victory."
"It would significantly extend the reach of the Culinary Union," he said. "It would probably raise wages and improve benefits. Although it would hurt profits."
Waddoups said if the Culinary Union were successful, it could also open the door to organizing efforts at other nonunion neighborhood casinos.
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