intimidate non-union workers
union — this time the powerful Culinary Union Local 226 — has been
found guilty of violating federal labor law with threats and attempts
to intimidate non-union workers on the Strip.
In a ruling released May 2, Administrative Law Judge Dickie Montemayor
found that Culinary “has engaged in certain unfair labor practices” and ordered the union “to cease and desist.”
Eleven months earlier, threats made by an IATSE Local 720
representative to a non-union Bellagio audio engineer led the National
Labor Relations Board to nullify an October 2012 representation
election and call for a second election.
In the Culinary case, the judge ordered the union to, within 14 days,
post a public admission —signed by a Culinary representative — that
“the National Labor Relations Board has found that we violated Federal
labor law and has ordered us to post and obey this notice.”
For at least 60 days, the notice — according to Montemayor’s written
ruling — must be posted by the union “in conspicuous places” at its
business office and “all places where notices to employees and members
are customarily posted.”
The notice states that:
FEDERAL LAW GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO:
—Form, join, or assist a union.
—Choose representatives to bargain on your behalf with your employer.
—Act together with other employees for your benefit and protection
—Choose not to engage in any of these protected activities.
In another part of the document, the union is to publicly pledge that,
from now on:
“WE WILL NOT do anything to prevent you from exercising the above rights.
“WE WILL NOT threaten you with unspecified losses and/or loss of
contractual benefits unless you pay union dues once we and Paris Las
Vegas agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. [Editor’s note:
A new five-year contract was agreed to in January.] “WE WILL NOT in any like or related manner restrain or coerce
employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed them by Section 7
of the Act.”
Montemayor’s ruling, released May 2, described how a Culinary shop
steward had illegally threatened a Paris Hotel snack-bar attendant
with the loss of her benefits and seniority unless she rejoined the
union, which she’d left five years earlier.
Having “carefully observed the demeanor of witnesses as they
testified,” wrote the judge, he concluded that the snack-bar
attendant, Nani Sugianto, had testified truthfully about what
happened, whereas the shop steward, Alfonso Gonzalez, had not.
According to the hearing transcript, Sugianto said that the threat
occurred when she was checking with Gonzalez, a pizza cook, about
newly baked pizza for the snack bar.
“Then he told me,” she said, “‘Nani, I know you, we all know you, and
I got a phone call from the Union rep to let you know that it will be
bad for [you and your] family, since I don’t pay any more Union dues.
So [Gonzalez told her] if the casino signs any more contract[s] with
the Union, I will be losing all my benefits, my insurance, my
seniority, and I will start over at the beginning as a new hire.”
Gonzalez, according to the hearing transcript, gave the court a
Yeah, I told Nani, you know the companies almost called a strike, so
if we go to strike I see that you — you’re not a member, so if you
stay and we don’t get a contract, you can — you might lose your
benefits and because we don’t know — and, like I told her, you see how
the company is doing right now, trying to short hours, trying to take
aware [sic] hours from us, so if we lose our contract, they might not
give us the benefits that we have right now and we want to keep it, we
want to keep all of those benefits. So if we — you can help us to vote
and be a member, we are going to be stronger.
“After carefully considering the matter and studying the record,”
wrote Montemayor, “I credit the testimony of Sugianto,” whose “overall
demeanor was forthright and suggested that she was being truthful
about the conversation.”
The judge said he also found her testimony credible “because her
action of seeking out a manager after the conversation with Gonzalez
ended is consistent with her perception that she was being threatened
and/or coerced. In sum, the conversation triggered action on her part.
Speaking with her manager and going the step further to complain to
the Board is more consistent with someone who perceived that she was
coerced and/or threatened than someone who merely was given advice as
to what might happen if a contract was not signed.”
On the other hand, the testimony of Gonzalez — who had met earlier in
the day with a Culinary organizer — wrote the judge, was not credible:
Judging from [the pizza cook’s] demeanor and the manner in which he
testified, his testimony surrounding the conversation appeared to be
self-serving, rehearsed and calculated to neatly fall within the
parameters of what the law might consider threatening and/or coercive.
Gonzalez attempted to portray himself as a close friend of Sugianto
who was interested only in her well being. I find that this testimony
was contrived merely to color his version of events with an artificial
backdrop of legitimacy… I further find that Gonzalez was attempting
to help increase Union membership during a time period when a
potential strike was on the horizon and his over-zealous pursuit of
that goal took the form of the conversation as described by Sugianto.
The hearing before Montemayor took place February 11, 2014. The events
at issue occurred May 7, 2013.
In the IATSE — International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees,
or the “Stagehands’ union” — matter, it was the National Labor
Relations Board itself, in Washington, D. C., that surprised many
observers and unanimously voted to set aside a tainted organizing
At issue in the case was whether a union engineer was to be considered
a representative of the union when he threatened to a non-union
engineer who opposed unionization.
In September 2012, IATSE Local 720 had filed a petition to represent
20 audio-visual technicians and stage hands in the Bellagio’s
Freelance audio engineer Alphonse Torres, according to the NLRB,
contacted Bellagio employee Douglas Spicka — who the union recognized
would be the swing vote in the upcoming representation election — and
lobbied him to vote to bring in the union.
Spicka, however, later expressed opposition to the union at an
organizing meeting where Torres was present. Torres then sent Spicka a
“Really bro?” it said. “I never pegged u for a rat. Live & learn I
guess. That’s a tough road u chose doug. U could’ve just voted no.”
Spicka immediately called Torres, who told Spicka that his remarks at
the meeting had not been “cool.” Torres concluded the conversation by
saying, “Bro, you know, if this vote goes through, you’re toast,” and
“the vote is going to go through… you better not vote.”
After the October 10, 2012 election resulted in a 10-to-nine vote in
the union’s favor, with one voided ballot, the Bellagio filed an
objection to the election with the NLRB, citing the Torres threats.
The NLRB hearing officer, Mitchell S. Rubin, ruled that Torres had not
been an agent of the union and so his threats had not constituted
“objectionable conduct” by the union.
However, on that point the National Labor Relations Board overruled
the hearing officer.
The three members unanimously found that, because the union business
agent had allowed Torres — an IATSE member but not an employee in the
Bellagio department — to advocate for the union at the organizing
meeting, lobbying undecided employees, it was reasonable for employees
to see Torres as operating with the union’s authority.
For that, they ruled, IATSE Local 720 bore responsibility for the
tainted election and voided it.
Steven Miller is the managing editor of Nevada Journal, a publication
of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more in-depth reporting,
visit http://nevadajournal.com/ andhttp://npri.org/.