Maria Cristina Alvarado immigrated from Guatemala about 11 years ago and has worked as an assistant cook at the Green Valley Ranch Casino Resort in Henderson for the last 16 years. Alverado and other workers at the casino voted to unionize in November 2017, with 78 percent of the vote, but have since been met with “union-busting” tactics, intimidation, and retaliation, say union organizers.
On Wednesday night, Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto met briefly with Culinary Union Local 226 Secretary Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline and Station Casinos workers to hear about what the union called a campaign of stalling recognition and delaying contract negotiations by Station Casinos and its parent company, Red Rock Resorts.
The Culinary Union has been organizing union drives at Station Casinos since 2011. So far workers have successfully voted to form a union at seven of the company’s properties in Nevada.
Station Casinos executives and spokespersons have said in the past that they would honor union election results. In 2016, Station Casinos president Richard Haskins told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “We have said all along that if a fair and lawful election is held we will abide by the results.”
But despite winning seven elections, only Boulder Station, Palace Station, and Fiesta Rancho have agreed to bargain, says Argüello-Kline.
According to the Culinary Union, the remaining Station Casinos are still appealing union elections in federal court and have stalled contract negotiations.
“They’ll lose all the way up. They just want to delay the process because in the end they will have to pay our pension and health insurance, and they’re saving money over these years,” Argüello-Kline says. “That’s their plan, but we’re not waiting.”
The union has since continued to organize at Station Casinos across the valley. The most recent union elections occurred at Fiesta Henderson Hotel-Casino, with 57 percent of about 300 workers voting in favor of the union, and Fiesta Rancho Hotel & Casino, with 85 percent of 147 workers voting for the union.
Steven Csomos has been a server at Boulder Station for about five years and says he was recently suspended as retaliation for participating in union organizing.
“They are all over me. We want them to treat us with respect. No retaliation. But it’s increasing a lot lately. We deserve to be treated like anyone else,” Csomos told Cortez Masto at the meeting. “Something has to be done. It’s getting bad. We have families, we have rent. We have mortgages. We have kids.”
The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Station has been “failing to bargain collectively and in good faith,” and dozens of unfair labor practice charges have been filed by workers against Station Casinos and remain under review by the board.
Eli Jimeenez has worked at Sunset Station since it opened 22 years ago and currently works as a bartender. In June, 83 percent of workers at Sunset Station voted to unionize and a total of 437 workers participated in the election.
“We went through the legal process of organizing. We won the process and still they don’t care and they don’t want to respect the law or the process,” Jimeenez said. “All we want is the same respect and standard of living as everyone else who works on the strip or Downtown has.”
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, both top 2020 presidential candidates, have publicly supported Station Casino workers efforts to unionize. Warren said she stands with Culinary adding that “Management must respect workers and come to the table to negotiate” while Sanders called on Palms Casinos “Trump-supporting owners to stop ignoring the law and start negotiating with their workers.”
Station Casinos are owned by Republican megadonors Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. The Fertittas have donated $2 million to America First Action Inc. PAC, putting them among the top combined donors.
Steve Bailey, a bellman at Red Rock for about 12 years, told Cortez Masto he’d experienced retaliation tactics and says his performance has been overly scrutinized since he started organizing. Bailey says he’s also been made to attend what he called “basically union-busting meetings.”
“Whatever you can do to help us it would be greatly appreciated. because we need the help,” Bailey said. “We’re not just crying help it is very much needed.”
Cortez Masto said she appreciated the workers sharing their stories and would take their message back to Washington, DC.
“So many of the workers have come together to support organizing on these properties, and they’re just asking for the process to be followed,” Cortez Masto said.
In recent months Station Casinos has repeatedly declined to respond to the Culinary’s criticisms of the company, or comment on the Culinary’s secret ballot victories at Station properties.
Contacted for comment Thursday morning, Michael Britt, senior vice president of Red Rocks Resorts, complained that the company was not contacted Wednesday night prior to the story’s original publication. Asked for comment Thursday morning, Britt declined.
Note: This story was updated to include Red Rock Resorts declining to comment.