Labor organizations using websites, social media to battle casino and political foes By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports February 18, 2019 at 8:00 pm These are interesting times for the Las Vegas casino industry and the various unions whose members are among the many thousands of workers who help make so many memories for visitors and so much money for investors. The best-known labor organization associated with the industry is easily Culinary Union Local 226, which celebrates its 84th anniversary in 2019. Its membership has risen along with the expansion of the gaming and tourism market from 18,000 in 1987 to its current 60,000. That can translate into a lot of political clout, and through the years Culinary has been a great friend, and formidable foe, to candidates on the campaign trail. Although Culinary has managed to resolve its traditional contracts, it continues its war of attrition with nonunion Station Casinos, in part through its fertittamoneywatch.org website. The site throws a wide array of allegations and accusations against the Internet wall through the presentation of position papers and letters to vendors critical of Fertitta Capital. So far, it’s difficult to tell what, if anything, has stuck. More recently, Laborers Union Local 872 has wielded a political club on behalf of its allies and at the expense of its enemies. Under Tommy White’s reign of leadership, it was a major proponent of the $750 million in public financing for the $1.8 billion Las Vegas Stadium – the future home of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders – and has maintained an exceedingly high profile for a local with approximately 3,000 members. Local 872’s bruising style has been most prevalent in the ongoing recall effort of freshman Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Seroka, who continues to take a pounding as the union-backed effort picks up steam in Ward 2 neighborhoods and on social media. Meanwhile, the Operating Engineers Local 501, which represents more than 2,000 maintenance engineers and slot technicians in the Las Vegas area, is locked in a protracted labor dispute against the downtown Golden Nugget. It, too, has created a website critical of the casino-hotel, long considered the toast of Fremont Street. The website makes no secret of its purpose. To wit: “Golden Nugget Leaks is an independent website sponsored by the Operating Engineers, Local 501, which represents over 2,000 Maintenance Engineers and Slot Technicians in Las Vegas, including workers at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Downtown Las Vegas. Local 501 is currently in a labor dispute with the Golden Nugget Las Vegas. “This website is intended to serve as an interactive informational platform for guests, patrons and workers alike at the Golden Nugget Las Vegas to discuss issues and stay informed. The site over time will be a one-stop resource for ready access to health, safety and regulatory information about the hotel-casino facility. It is also an outlet for the general public to voice any issues or concerns about the facility. We accept ‘leaks’ from the public about the Golden Nugget Las Vegas.” From questions about casino air quality to allegations bed bugs, it appears little is out of bounds for the website. Local 501 also scheduled a demonstration outside the Golden Nugget on Monday. In the Internet age, however, it’s increasingly common for labor organizations to rally their political campaigns, contract negotiations, and other protests through social media and websites of varying substance and research. Just a few years ago, the operating engineers-inspired “Casinoleaks-Macau.com” made substantial headlines with its expressed suspicions of wrongdoing by American gaming operators. The website was forced to shut down amid litigation threats and political dirty tricks accusations after it took aim at Las Vegas-based casino corporations doing business in what has become the world’s richest gaming market. The website was the brainchild International Union of Operating Engineers director of special projects Jeff Fiedler. The targets of the websites and social media campaigns argue that the materials used either are entirely inaccurate or taken out of context for dramatic political effect. Some union officials contend the websites have become necessary because of the lack of coverage of organized labor in much of the press. Whether such websites influence public opinion or apply negotiating pressure in deeply divided labor disputes remains unclear. But from all appearances, they’re not going away any time soon. Contact John L. Smith at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.