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9th Circuit sides with union in fight with Las Vegas casino

November 30, 2021 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld a U.S. judge’s ruling in Nevada requiring Station Casinos’ Red Rock Casino to bargain with the culinary and bartenders unions.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for the union in a yearslong fight to unionize about 1,350 employees at the Las Vegas-based casino company it accuses of refusing to negotiate in good faith.

Union leaders accused Red Rock of undercutting a December 2019 union election by enhancing health benefits and retirement accounts just days before the vote.

Cornele Overstreet, regional director for the National Labor Relations Board, filed a lawsuit against the company last year alleging unfair labor practices and at least one tainted union vote at Red Rock Resort.

U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro identified what she called a “landmark violation” of federal labor law in July when she issued her ruling backing the NLRB’s request for injunctive relief. She ordered the company not to threaten, discipline or interfere with employees because of their membership or support for the union.

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The company argued Navarro abused her discretion by overturning the vote by employees to reject the Culinary Workers Union and punished the company “because Station Casinos treated its team members too well.”

But the panel at the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit disagreed in a ruling Friday.

“New employee benefits were announced just days before the union election, and there was extensive evidence that those benefits were designed to discourage union support” or to take ”away union power,” the ruling said.

“The district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Red Rock’s grant of benefits was likely an unlawful labor practice rather than a permissible effort to say ‘one step ahead’ of union activity,” it said.

The appellate panel said the evidence supports Navarro’s conclusion “that the union had likely attained majority status because it produced authorization cards representing more than half of the employee bargaining unit, notwithstanding the union’s ultimate election loss.”

“And the district court did not err by relying on evidence that employees changed their votes for fear of losing the newly announced benefits,” it said.

The company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. It could appeal the ruling or ask for the full 9th Circuit to rehear the case.

Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Workers Union, said in a statement the ruling is “another victory for workers who stood up and organized to have a union at Red Rock Casino.”

“Just like Judge Navarro before it, the Ninth Circuit saw Station’s Casinos’ grant of benefits right before the election at Red Rock for what it was — a poorly disguised effort to take away union power and to discourage workers from unionizing,” Arguello-Kline said.

Station Casinos owns several hotel-casinos in and around Las Vegas and has for years resisted worker efforts to unionize. The 800-room resort opened in 2006 not far from the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, west of Las Vegas.