UPDATE: October 25, 2013 – Following the release of these videos – where Culinary Union Local 226 members were seen regularly throwing epithets and verbal abuse at tourists entering the Cosmopolitan – the union’s protests have been put on hold until Nov. 1. The group encompasses some 55,000 bartenders, maids and food servers in Las Vegas, and has been at odds about issues such as health care, job security, compensation and even successorship, ie., what happens if Cosmopolitan gets sold to another company by Deutsche Bank at some point.
The protests have been costing taxpayers an average of $2,600 in extra police patrols, according to the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs, a group that is dedicated to putting an end to the union’s assaults on tourists.
Union organizers say they will resume the actions on Nov. 1, however.
If you’re a typical tourist heading into Las Vegas, you’re probably prepared for some financial losses, maybe some weight gain from all the fabulous eateries, possibly even a taxi driver who might drive you (illegally) out of your way. But what you are probably not prepared for is being yelled at and called derogatory names simply for entering a very upscale casino, like, say, The Cosmopolitan next to Aria on the Las Vegas Strip.
But that’s the tactic that Culinary Union Local 226 has been using – and many say, abusing – for awhile now as they continue to negotiate with Cosmopolitan’s management, Deutsche Bank, in what has now dragged on into a two-year ongoing mess until a deal can be finalized between the two parties.
Meanwhile, an organization called The Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs is making You Tube videos of the insulting slurs and posting them, saying the union workers are endangering Las Vegas’s primary asset with their jabs: tourism.
Hurling Insults at Tourists
Using a bullhorn to intimidate guests as they walked into The Cosmopolitan, one union protester said: “You and your girlfriend are a bunch of losers … especially your girlfriend.”
Not surprisingly, this tactic – presumably being used to hurry up the negotiation process with a hotel that certainly doesn’t want to lose valuable guests – is not going over very well with either the Alliance or the tourists themselves.
“You don’t [settle negotiations] by calling tourists those names and berating them when they come here to spend their money in our city,” said Ron Futrell, spokesman for Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs.
“They shouldn’t disrespect the people that are going into the places,” said a tourist from Indiana who was shown a video clip of the union protestors by a local TV station.
“I think that’s terrible. I think that’s absolutely terrible,” said another tourist, this one visiting from Canada. “You know we don’t want trouble … you’re here to have a good time.”
“First Amendment Rights”
To the Culinary Union workers, apparently berating people who have nothing to do with your actual contract falls under the heading of “civil disobedience,” however. In a statement, their official position was this, per Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the group’s Secretary Treasurer:
“Workers at the Cosmopolitan have been in contract negotiations with Deutsche Bank for over two years. The recent civil disobediences, rallies, and pickets are exercises of workers’ First Amendment rights and part of the struggle for the Las Vegas Dream. Cosmopolitan workers are fighting for the opportunity to provide for their families, something all Vegas workers deserve.”
Of course, in a tourism-dependent city still struggling to regain its footing after nearly six years of recession, one could argue that 226’s First Amendment rights aren’t nearly as pressing as making sure word gets out that Las Vegas is still a fun place to visit.
“They continue to give Las Vegas a black eye” said Dave McGowan, state director for the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs. “We have received hundreds of emails, phone calls, and messages from concerned citizens asking what they can do to put an end to this harassment…and simply cannot allow the actions of these big labor bosses to wreak havoc on our already fragile economy.”
Take that, you selfish, greedy union losers. We’re just exercising our First Amendment rights when we say that, of course.