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Arnold M. Knightly

Dealers at Rio reject union

14 July 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A union organizing effort at the Rio fell short Saturday when 60 percent of the casino dealers voted against representation.

National Labor Relations Board officials counted 247 dealers opposed to forming a union, with 162 in favor of union representation by Las Vegas Dealers Local 721, a division of the New York-based Transport Workers Union of America.

Four votes were discarded or challenged.

Rio's management issued a statement Sunday stating the "vote demonstrates an overwhelming endorsement of the dealers' belief and confidence in the Rio and the way dealers and management have always worked together."

The union's defeat follows two 3-to-1 votes last year to approve union representation at the Wynn Las Vegas and Caesars Palace.

Dealers at both properties, however, have yet to negotiate collective bargaining agreements with management.

Local union director Joseph Carbon said union officials were surprised by the defeat, but will continue to organize casino workers along the Strip.

"I've been around long enough to understand this is just part of the process," Carbon said after the vote. "You don't always win every election. Of course, I'm a little disheartened, but it's not going to slow our momentum."

Matthew Meyer, a Rio dealer for four years and union organizer, said he respects the vote of his coworkers and hopes everyone can continue to work together and move forward.

He added that he hopes the organizing effort, although not successful, will lead to better dialogue with management over concerns many workers have over such issues as seniority, possible layoffs and protecting the dealers' tips.

"I would hope we could work together to resolve some of the issues we have," said Meyer, outside a Flamingo Road sports bar early Sunday morning where approximately three dozen union supporters gathered following the vote.

The efforts to organize dealers at Strip resorts was spurred by Wynn Las Vegas's decision to begin splitting dealers' tips with some of the resort's management personnel.

Fellow union supporter and organizer John Nielsen, a Rio dealer for 13 years, said he was surprised by the results.

"I thought it was going to be completely the opposite," Nielsen said. "I was shocked. The people voted and decided that the union is not the best for us at this time."

Rio dealers filed a petition in June asking for the representation vote. Carbon said the union has seven days to file objections with the National Labor Relations Board if the union believes there was anyimpropriety on the part of the casino's management or owner, Harrah's Entertainment.

"There are a few issues we're going to be looking at that we may file an objection to it," Carbon said. " But I'm not quite sure."

Meyer said the management team at the Rio conducted itself appropriately during the seven-month process, and hopes that there is no reprisal against union supporters from coworkers or management.

"I respect our management team," he said. "I would hope they let bygones be bygones."