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Arnold M. Knightly

CityCenter workers walk off job

3 June 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada –- The majority of union workers on MGM Mirage's CityCenter project went on strike late Monday after union negotiations with the developer and construction company regarding the construction site's safety broke down.

Workers started being sent home by company officials about 8 p.m. Monday after word of the strike circulated, union officials said.

About 100 union members were picketing late Monday on the Las Vegas Boulevard side of the construction site with signs saying "ON STRIKE/UNSAFE JOB SITE."

Saturday's death of a sixth worker on the $9.2 billion CityCenter project led the Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council to say it would "take action" Monday afternoon if MGM Mirage and the project's general contractor, Perini Building Co., did not address several safety concerns by midnight.

"We will be on strike until our demands are met," said council spokesman Steve Redlinger, after releasing the strike announcement.

Specifically, the council demands that the companies:

-Submit to an immediate work site safety assessment by the Center for Construction Research and Training.

-Institute and pay for on-site training administered by the center.

-Grant full job site access to union and safety officials.

"It is time to stop talking about worker safety, and time to start putting into place policies that are going to improve worker safety on the job site," alliance Secretary-Treasurer Steve Ross said at a Monday afternoon news conference discussing the strike.

The alliance of trade unions has been meeting with MGM Mirage and Perini officials over the past few weeks to discuss job safety on the project.

"They have a right to earn a living and go home to their families at night," said John Smirk, secretary-treasurer of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 15.

Smirk said workers are concerned about safety and don't want to be dispatched to the job site.

Ross said neither company has objected to the requests and "have expressed a willingness to work with us on job site safety concerns."

However, none of the three requests had been acted upon, leading to Monday's strike.

"That being said, to date, not one of our recommendations has been suitably acted upon. We will not send our workers to an unsafe job site," Ross said, flanked by representatives from the alliance's 17 affiliated construction unions.

A walkout could pretty much shut down all work on the site because a majority of the 6,000 workers on the project are members of the council's unions, Ross said.

Messages left with Perini's offices in Las Vegas and its corporate office in Famington, Mass., were not answered Monday.

Because Perini is the general contractor for the CityCenter development, MGM Mirage declined to comment on council's statements or discuss its requests.

"What the building trades are asking for needs to be worked out with Perini," MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said. "We're supportive of whatever Perini chooses to do."

Dustin Tarter, 39-year-old worker from Henderson, died Saturday when he was working on a moving crane and apparently became caught between the counterweight system and the track of the crane.

It is the sixth death in 16 months on the site.

CityCenter is expected to open in 2009 and includes a 4,000-room hotel-casino, residential offerings, boutique hotels and a retail, dining and entertainment complex.

Dubai World, the investment arm of the Persian Gulf state of Dubai, spent almost $5 billion to buy half ownership in CityCenter and acquire 9.4 percent of MGM Mirage.