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Cy Ryan

Court rules in favor of Vegas unions

28 August 2008

CARSON CITY, Nevada -– The Culinary and bartenders unions have won another round in their long legal battle with the former owners of the Sahara and Hacienda hotel-casinos in Las Vegas.

But a final decision in the case that dates to 1994 might be a long time coming.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the National Labor Relations Board to reconsider its decision that allowed former hotel-casino owners Paul and Sue Lowden to stop collecting union dues from employees after their contract expired.

Richard McCracken, the Las Vegas attorney for Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165, said there are only two members on the five-member NLRB and the board membership probably won't be filled until a new president is elected. So any decision from the federal body may be awhile in coming, he said.

The Hacienda Hotel has been demolished and a new casino has been built on the site. The Sahara is under new ownership. But the Lowdens are still part of Archon Corp., which is the subject of the legal action.

When the unions' contract at the Hacienda and Sahara expired in 1994, Archon stopped collecting dues from the employees and shipping the money to the unions. The unions filed a complaint with the NLRB, which ruled in favor of the casino owners.

The 9th circuit court in 2003 voided the ruling by the NLRB and ordered it to "articulate a reasoned explanation" for its decision. In 2007, the NLRB again ruled in favor of the Lowdens.

The unions appealed again and the circuit court today sent the case back to the NLRB to review the case and "present a reasoned explanation to support it." The question is whether the Lowdens could cut off the dues without bargaining over the issue, even if the contract had expired.

Nevada is a right-to-work state and these employees agreed voluntarily to have the dues deducted from their paychecks, but Archon argued it was within his rights to stop taking the money out of the paychecks of the workers and sending it to the unions.

When Archon stopped deducting the dues, it placed the money in the paychecks of the union members.

Besides the legal question to be answered, McCracken said Archon could be liable for reimbursing the two unions for all the money they did not receive, plus up to 10 percent interest.