4 arrested in Culinary protest near Red Rock Resort

Culinary Union Local 226 President Ted Pappageorge, left, Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline, center, and Chris Griswold, the secretary-treasurer of California Teamsters Local 986 are arrested by Metro Police officers after blocking traffic on West Charleston Boulevard during a protest against Station Casinos in front of the Red Rock Resort Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014.

Four protesters were arrested tonight during a demonstration against Station Casinos in which hundreds marched from a local high school to Red Rock Resort.

Organized by the Culinary Local 226, a union representing more than 55,000 casino workers in Las Vegas and Reno, the protest highlighted the union’s ongoing demand that Station provide its workers a “fair process” to decide whether to unionize.

Culinary Protest at Red Rock Resort

Culinary Union Local 226 members rally during a protest against Station Casinos in front of the Red Rock Resort Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Tension has existed between the union and Station over organized labor issues for years, with both sides claiming they seek what’s best for employees. The Culinary organized a similar protest before Labor Day at Boulder Station.

Protesters began Thursday’s march at Palo Verde High School, proceeding from there down Pavilion Center Drive for a rally in front of Station’s resort on Charleston Boulevard. That’s where the four were arrested.

As they arrived in front of Red Rock Resort, the demonstrators — and police — partially blocked an eastbound stretch of Charleston to traffic, even though the state previously denied the union a permit to close a lane.

Organizers said they got approval from local officials to close a lane on Pavilion Center Drive, but had to seek a permit from the Nevada Department of Transportation to close off a lane on Charleston by the 215 Beltway.

NDOT spokesman Tony Illia said the agency, which rejected the union’s request, received less than 24 hours’ notice about the protest.

Khan, however, said officials requested a permit midday Tuesday. The union hasn’t been denied such a request in 25 years, she said.

In any case, Illia said, NDOT usually doesn’t permit lane closures unless it’s for road work or, in some instances, police action.

“We do not interfere with anyone’s constitutional rights to gather or protest, however, NDOT does care about the public impact to traffic,” he said. “The Culinary Union is free to protest and use the right of way, but they cannot obstruct traffic.”

During the protest, Culinary organizing director Donell Henderson was arrested after he attempted to park a truck on Charleston for people giving speeches to stand on. Police took the truck away.

Not long afterward, three organized labor leaders were intentionally arrested: Culinary Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline, Culinary President Ted Pappageorge and Chris Griswold, the secretary-treasurer of California Teamsters Local 986.

Arguello-Kline said in an interview before the march that she was willing to get arrested if necessary.

She said the protest was about creating a better workplace environment for workers at Station properties.

“They serve their drinks, they cook their meals, they’re making them have a lot of progress — and now the only thing they’re asking for is respect,” Arguello-Kline said.

Station spokeswoman Lori Nelson said the casino chain is a “pro-employee company” that supports a secret-ballot election, as opposed to the more public card-signing process favored by the union.

“Despite everything the Culinary Union keeps saying, there is no major labor dispute taking place,” Nelson said. “This so-called dispute is only about the Culinary Union’s desperate request — and clearly at any cost to any business in town — to increase their membership dues.”

Nelson criticized the protest’s conflict with the grand opening of Downtown Summerlin, a large shopping and entertainment area located near Red Rock Resort.

She said the Culinary’s membership should be “embarrassed that its leadership is trying to take away from Downtown Summerlin’s opening to the community,” noting that the development is creating more than 2,000 jobs.

But Culinary spokeswoman Bethany Khan said the overlap with Downtown Summerlin’s opening was coincidental, and that the union is “doing something monthly” in opposition to Station.