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Arnold M. Knightly

Las Vegas hotels awash in pickets

2 November 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Union workers from Mission Industries laundry plants Thursday took their fight for a new Culinary union contract straight to the company's customers.

At the Tropicana, about 30 workers, many of them wearing T-shirts saying "One team, one dream" on the front, gathered on the sidewalk about noon waiting for the arrival of a Mission Industries delivery truck.

Like their counterparts at other downtown and Strip hotels, the workers were handing out fliers to passers-by to raise awareness about the union dispute with Mission Industries.

The Culinary Local 226 and Mission Industries ended talks Wednesday evening on a new contract for workers at Mission Industries' six local plants, which provide linen and uniform cleaning services for nearly 50 local hotels on the Strip on in downtown Las Vegas.

The union canceled the contract extension it had been operating under and began picketing Thursday. Culinary members have already authorized a strike, and the union could go on strike next week.

The major sticking point in the talks has been that the union wants Mission Industries to provide its workers with the Culinary's health plan, which offers full family benefits with no out-of-pocket costs for workers, effective immediately. Mission Industries says it can't afford to offer the health plan, which costs more than twice what it now offers to it employees, until the fourth year of a new five-year contract.

"We're very frustrated," said Juan Rosas, a worker at Mission Industries Plant 10 in northeast Las Vegas who was picketing outside the Tropicana. "We want the health insurance for our families. We have been under an extension for a year.

"We are doing this to get the message out to the hotels," Rosas said. "We put pressure on the hotels to negotiate with Mission for our health insurance."

Pickets also showed up outside the delivery area at the Palms.

Pilar Weiss, spokeswoman for the union, said Thursday afternoon that nearly 200 workers stopped by the picket area outside the Tropicana throughout the day.

The picketing at delivery points for various hotels and the passing out of fliers will continue through Saturday.

Tropicana General Manager John Sevilla said there were no problems because of the demonstrations.

He added that Mission Industries has assured the property that service will continue during the dispute.

Mission Industries could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The sides are scheduled to meet again Monday, according to union officials.

The union has said it is willing to agree to a two-year wage freeze and lower wage increases and pension contributions until 2010 if the Culinary's health plan is implemented immediately.

The laundry wants to wait to implement the health plan until Nov. 1, 2009.

Ray Patterson, an associate law professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said picketing and passing out fliers is a very effective way to get the issues into the public eye and embarrass management into taking some action.

"If your trying to persuade somebody, you put a spotlight on them," he said. "This is an indirect spotlight, but all the same, it's a spotlight."