Resorts World Las Vegas should take operating engineers union complaint very seriously

Resorts World Las Vegas should take operating engineers union complaint very seriously

  • John L. Smith
August 11, 2022 12:40 AM

The National Labor Relations Board’s unfair-labor-practices complaint against Genting Group’s multibillion-dollar Resorts World hotel-casino on the Strip in its organizing battle with Operating Engineers Local 501 raised few pulses when it hit the news earlier this year.

I suppose it’s possible to also ignore this week’s letter from the union to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, imploring him to have the state’s gaming regulators investigate the parent company’s reported ties to Chinese-state-owned enterprises and other controversies.

It’s also true that Local 501’s 110 or so maintenance experts and slot technicians at Resorts World don’t comprise the largest block of employees. And the resort boasts that it already has a signed contract with the behemoth Culinary and Bartenders unions. In other words, Local 501 isn’t the biggest fish in the sea.

Call it a hunch, but I think it’s a mistake to write off this labor skirmish as nothing more than the usual workplace tug-o’-war.

I know what you’re thinking: The company is already licensed in Nevada and around the casino industry, labor and management disputes often get contentious. NLRB complaints are common and often take years to resolve. This is a blip on the screen.

Fair enough.

But few labor organizations I’ve followed over the years have demonstrated the tenacity and relentless research that the International Union of Operating Engineers has displayed. During a protracted labor dispute with Wynn Resorts during the Steve Wynn era, union researchers spent years digging into a body of rich and, as it turned out, damaging material associated with the casino company’s activity in Macau.

You say the companies are very different. Resorts World has already shown a willingness to work with other labor organizations and that damning NLRB complaint is a long way from being settled. And you’re right.

Genting Group’s many companies, including its Resorts World-branded casinos in New York, Singapore, the Philippines, Great Britain, the Bahamas, and Malaysia, also have skin in the game in this fight. Historically, Nevada gaming regulators have shown a willingness to follow investigative leads from the Strip to Singapore and beyond.

Let’s just say the union is showing no signs of folding its tent and moving on. A couple of excerpts from this week’s letter set the tone for what might be coming in this international fight.

“Our initial review, based exclusively on open-source and public records, has turned up alarming findings. We are concerned that the findings, detailed below, were not adequately considered during Resorts World/Genting Group’s licensing investigation by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and Nevada Gaming Commission.

“Specifically, we believe that Nevada should initiate a new review into the business relationships between Genting Group and Chinese Communist state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Genting Group has unique relationships with Chinese SOEs that appear to be unprecedented among Nevada gaming licensees.”

For his part, Gov. Sisolak was concerned enough about the union’s letter that his office sent an immediate response to the union, directing it to communicate directly with the state’s gaming regulators.

With its casino officials accused of using threats and intimidation to disrupt the union’s organizing efforts, the company shows no sign of backing down. In a lengthy statement from Rogich Communications Group, Resorts World left little doubt about where it believes the operating engineers dispute is heading. “Our team members voted in an election that was requested by the Operating Engineers and they chose not to select (the union) as their representative. A second vote was then taken with a larger group of team members, but the Operating Engineers instead requested that the Labor Board block the ballot count. We still do not know the outcome of that vote.

“At this time, we are unable to take any further action until the votes of our team members are allowed to be counted and their voices can be heard. At no time did Resorts World Las Vegas engage in any unlawful practices and we wish only that our team members are able to make an informed choice about their future and whether or not they wish to be represented by the Operating Engineers for purposes of collective bargaining. If the Operating Engineers wish this to happen, they should allow the votes to be counted.”

So the fight between the union and the casino – as well as its international parent company – is on. Some would call that a real mismatch favoring the licensed resort king.

Write it off as another piece of rank speculation, but I wonder if Resorts World officials will look back in a few months with the same level of resolve.