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Best of Howard Stutz

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Howard Stutz
 

SLS Las Vegas valets work to end Teamsters protests

2 June 2015

Valet employees at the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino said a majority of the parking staff don’t want to be represented by the Teamsters Union and are seeking advice on how to end demonstrations at the north Strip resort.

Workers drafted a petition asking Teamsters Local 986 to end the organizing effort. As of last week, the petition had been signed by 34 of the 50-person valet staff.

However, one SLS valet employee said supporters of the union also signed the petition as a way of forcing a vote.

The Teamsters held several days of noisy protests outside the SLS Las Vegas last month, claiming SLS management committed unfair labor practices and fired three workers for supporting the organizing campaign. The union halted the pickets on May 22, saying SLS management’s willingness “to working with any union” was a primary reason to end the protest.

Barbara Baynes of the National Labor Relations Board in Las Vegas said Monday either the hotel or the union has to file a petition with the agency in order to schedule an election. Workers can only file a petition with the NLRB if they want to decertify an existing union.

According to the NLRB website, SLS filed a petition on May 19, but withdrew the request on May 26. Hotel officials said the petition for a vote was denied.

“Why is it that they want to get into our department when a majority of us do not want or need to be represented by them?” SLS valet parking attendant Maria Machorro said of the Teamsters.

Chris Griswold, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 986, said Monday he couldn’t comment on how many SLS valets favored the union.

He called it “a delicate time for the company and the union” and he was hoping the matter would be resolved. Teamsters Local 986 merged with Teamsters Local 995 nearly two years ago. Local 995 represented workers at the property when it was known as the Sahara, which closed in 2011.

Another SLS valet, Christopher Dobrowski, who is supportive of the organizing effort, said the employees just want a vote. He said more than 50 percent of the workers favor the union.

Executives from the 1,600-room SLS Las Vegas declined comment, but provided an unsigned statement, saying the hotel-casino would support the wishes of its valet parking staff, even if they “democratically elect” to join the Teamsters.

Resort officials said they asked the Teamsters Union to hold a vote, but the request was denied.

“We then approached the National Labor Relations Board to call for an immediate vote among our valet attendants regarding Teamsters representation,” according to the statement. “A vote would settle the situation quickly and fairly, and as we have said many times, we would not get in the way of those results. However SLS’ petition for a vote was denied.”

SLS Las Vegas said 1,106 of its 2,139 hourly employees are represented by several unions, including Culinary Workers Local 226, Bartenders Local 165 and Operating Engineers Local 501.

“We will work with any union SLS team members elect to represent them,” according to the hotel statement. “However, we understand that a majority of our valet employees have stated they do not wish to join the Teamsters.”

Machorro, who has been an SLS employee since the hotel-casino opened last August, said the Las Vegas NLRB office told her she could present a signed petition to the Teamsters showing that a majority of the employees aren’t seeking representation.

Several valet attendants also said they approached the NLRB to voice their concerns. Derenzo Sheppard said he spent nearly 90 minutes discussing the issue with a labor board officer, but was told nothing could be done to stop the organizing effort.

Machorro said the union began an organizing effort to get into the department at the beginning of the year, but has not filed its own petition with the NLRB. Machorro said she feels like the SLS employees “are being held hostage by the Teamsters” because the pickets have blocked entrances to the resort, keeping guests away the property.

Kaylan Stout, a valet parking supervisor at SLS, said the majority of the employees don’t have any issues with management and are not seeking outside representation.

Stout and Machorro said the three valet parking employees who were fired were supportive of the Teamsters, but said the hotel was justified in firing the workers because other attendants felt they were being harassed and threatened.

Previously, the union claimed SLS Las Vegas was blocking the workers from forming a union and that other labor groups were supportive of the picket lines.