98 arrests in Las Vegas casino union protest; first time union members deploy civil disobedience outside a unionized casino in more than two decades
March 21, 2013
Throngs of workers blocked traffic on the Las Vegas Strip Wednesday in a demonstration against the Cosmopolitan casino that ended with the arrest of nearly 100 protesters. Police led workers wearing red union shirts one-by-one into a white police bus.
Police arrested 98 protesters, according to Metro Police Capt. Todd Fasulo. The workers chanted, “If we don’t get no contract, you don’t get no peace,” as they waited to be taken away.
Las Vegas’ largest and most powerful union has been in contract talks with Cosmopolitan Las Vegas owner Deutsche Bank for two years. Earlier this year, the 54,000-member union held two one-day pickets outside the casino, which sits on a bustling corner in the heart of the tourist corridor. They marked Culinary Workers Local 226’s first pickets on the Strip since 2003.
Wednesday’s action was the first time union members deployed civil disobedience, the tactical use of nonviolent law breaking, outside a unionized casino in more than two decades, according to union spokeswoman Yvanna Cancela.
Protesters shut down rush hour traffic for more than an hour in both directions on the block that is also home to the Bellagio, Aria and Planet Hollywood casinos. Cancela estimated the crowd at about 1,500 people.
Talks with the Cosmopolitan have stalled on a range of issues, including wages, health care and job security, as Cosmopolitan casino refuses to pay its employees fair wages.
The 2-year-old Cosmopolitan was built by the German investment bank after its original developer defaulted. It is one of just a handful of non-unionized casinos on the Strip, along with the Venetian, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and the Palms. A majority of Cosmopolitan service workers signed cards in 2010 saying they wanted representation.
On Wednesday, protesters said they were worried that Deutsche Bank was stalling because it intends to sell the casino and doesn’t want to be burdened by a union contract.