Updated April 15, 2021 - 7:08 pm
The National Labor Relations Board this week accused Station Casinos of unlawfully using the pandemic to undermine unions and influence employees to push for decertification.
On Thursday, the Las Vegas-based company released a statement rejecting the allegations as “biased and unfair.” The Culinary union called the complaint “massive and unprecedented,” and referred to Station Casinos’ alleged actions as a “shameful scheme.”
NLRB Regional Director Cornele Overstreet, whose area includes Las Vegas, issued a 92-page complaint against Red Rock Resorts Inc., Station Holdco LLC, Station Casinos LLC and 10 of their Las Vegas casinos. The complaint alleges the companies “engaged in a scheme to use layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine unions representing or seeking to represent their employees,” a release said.
The complaint marks another development in a long-running dispute between Station Casinos and the Culinary union. Employees at some Station properties voted for union representation in recent years, but Station and the Culinary haven’t signed a contract at any of those properties. A number of employees at Boulder Station and Palace Station in August and September signed petitions asking to leave their union representation.
Those withdrawals, the labor board said this week, were “unlawful” and “based on anti-union petitions that Station Casinos unlawfully encouraged employees to circulate and sign.”
Overstreet’s complaint states Station Casinos “provided more than ministerial assistance” to employees by circulating the petitions at Boulder Station from mid-June to early August, and at Palace Station from August to mid-September.
The release said Station Casinos didn’t bargain with employee unions prior to making sweeping job changes during and after the casino shut down last spring. Station laid off, fired, rehired and recalled employees, terminated their recall rights and benefits and implemented new health and safety standards “all without bargaining” with the unions, according to the release.
The gaming company did so “in a selective and discriminatory manner that was calculated to dilute union support among their employees,” according to the board. The board accused the company of pairing the practices with anti-union messaging.
“Specifically, the complaint alleges that Station Casinos suggested to employees that their unions had been negligent in representing them during the COVID-19 pandemic, when, in reality, Station Casinos had unlawfully failed to give the unions timely notice of their unilateral actions and unlawfully failed and refused to bargain about them,” the release said.
A spokesman for Red Rock Resorts, Station Casinos’ parent company, sent a statement to the Review-Journal saying that Station Casinos “rejects the biased and unfair allegations” of the labor board’s regional director.
“Over the course of a decade, the Company has been under attack by the Culinary Union and has learned that they are willing to say and do anything in an attempt to force our Team Members into their union,” the company said in the statement. “Now, with a willing accomplice in the NLRB Regional Director, the union is attempting to strip our Team Members of their democratic right to choose whether they want union representation or not. They are mischaracterizing all the great things we have done for our Team Members as a negative because, as they claim, ‘it undermines the union.’”
The statement said the gaming company has supported its employees throughout the pandemic with pay during the closure, increased benefits including a new company-paid retirement plan, free health insurance and upgrading more than 700 part-time employees to full time so they could receive benefits.
“The only undermining going on here is the attempted undermining of justice and employee free choice by a frustrated union and a complicit Regional Director,” the statement read, also accusing the union of wanting to decide when the company reopens its properties.
Union weighs in
Culinary Local 226 spokeswoman Bethany Khan said many fired workers had to reapply and compete with other workers for their old jobs.
“The NLRB complaint is massive and unprecedented,” she said in a statement. “Station Casinos had a shameful scheme to use the COVID-19 pandemic to rid the casino of union leaders and union support in the workplace. Because of the outrageous behavior of Station Casinos, the NLRB remedy is for the company to negotiate with the Culinary Union for all 10 hotel and casinos in Las Vegas and we look forward to that.”
She added, “If Station Casinos refuses to negotiate, they will face more severe legal consequences.”
The complaint is a consolidation of 60 unfair labor practice cases filed with the labor relations board since Sept. 24, 2018; 44 have been filed since May.
Among the other allegations levied in the complaint were that the company threatened, surveilled and punished employees it suspected of pro-union actions or sympathies; rewarded employees who campaigned against unions with bonuses, vacation or “employee of the month” awards; and tied potential job benefits to whether employees supported decertifying their unions at Boulder and Palace station casinos.
Since late May at Sante Fe Station, according to the complaint, the company threatened employees during team “huddles” that their return to work “was contingent upon their not engaging in union and protected concerted activities.”
Some of the complaint’s allegations include those the union has previously made, like a late 2019 allegation that the casino company and Red Rock Resort interfered with workers’ right to a fair election by making its maintenance organization health plan premium-free and deductible-free just days before the election.
During the second quarter of 2020, when casinos across the state were forced to shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, Red Rock Resorts had a net loss of $118.4 million and a revenue decline of 77.5 percent. Red Rock Resorts initiated mass layoffs in May 2020 after retaining workers through the first two months of the closures, and the company extended medical, dental and vision benefits to all laid-off employees for months afterward. The decertification petitions followed.
Regional directors with the National Labor Relations Board examine unfair labor practice charges against employers or labor organizations. Directors investigate the allegations for merit and determine whether to toss the charge or to issue a formal complaint and have a judicial hearing.
An administrative law judge can then recommend a cease-and-desist against the unfair labor practice or to dismiss the case. The labor relations board will then determine whether remedies are required. No date has been set for the hearing.
The labor board regional director is seeking an order for Station Casinos to recognize and bargain with the Local Joint Executive Board (which jointly bargains for Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165); International Union of Operating Engineers; IUOE, Local 501; and International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 16. Additionally, it seeks the company to reverse its decisions and post a notice to employees explaining their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.