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Aladdin To Retain Its Nonunion Status

8 August 2000

by David Strow

The Culinary Union, having failed so far in gaining recognition at the new Aladdin, is vowing to picket on opening night at the $1.4 billion resort on the Las Vegas Strip. The Aladdin was nonunion when it closed in 1997, and it will be nonunion when it opens in nine days.

Although Aladdin officials say the decision to organize is ultimately up to the employees, they've been telling the Aladdin's 4,000 new employees that they believe a union for workers isn't necessary under the Aladdin's philosophy of direct contact between employees and executives.

"Our focus is to work to create the absolute best possible environment for all Aladdin team members, period," said Richard Goeglein, chief executive of Aladdin Gaming.

But the Culinary Union, by far the Strip's largest organized labor force, says this position isn't acceptable. Accusing the Aladdin of holding "anti-union seminars," Culinary organizers say they'll mount a Venetian-style campaign of protests against the Strip's newest property, starting with the Aladdin's grand opening night on Aug. 17.

"It's become clear Aladdin management has decided to fight our union, and to challenge the standard of living we've built in this town," said Kevin Kline, director of organizing at the Culinary. "We will be there at their opening to demonstrate, and we will organize the Aladdin. We will never go away.

The Aladdin will be the latest in a growing string of high-profile battles for the Culinary, which now faces battles at the Venetian, the Rio and the Santa Fe.

Strategically, Culinary organizers see the Aladdin as a battle they must win.

Ironically, the original Aladdin was one of the few properties on the Las Vegas Strip that was nonunion when it closed, following a vote by employees to decertify the union in the mid-1980s.

Now, the fight at the "new" Aladdin is primarily over how employees would vote on whether or not they want union representation.

The union is pushing for representation by a "card count," a standard practice among many new casinos along the Strip. In a card count, employees sign cards stating their support for union organization. Once a majority of workers in a particular job class sign these cards, a property then recognizes the union and begins negotiations.

But the Aladdin, like the Venetian, believes the only fair way to determine a majority is through the election process -- which, unlike a card count, allows employees to remain anonymous in their selection. Goeglein said he relayed this position to Culinary co-staff director D. Taylor in a recent meeting, the only meeting he said he's had with the union.

To sweeten the pot for the property's workers, the Aladdin says it offers employees wages "competitive" with the union's wage scale on the Strip -- and, in some cases, above union wages, property officials say.

Goeglein insists the Aladdin isn't spoiling for a fight with organized labor, but said he doesn't intend to back down in the face of a campaign like the one the Venetian has faced -- and noted that the Venetian has become a business success despite the protracted labor campaign.

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