- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 15, 2017

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Contract negotiations between the Culinary Union and Palace Station management are expected to begin soon following an agreement to settle a series of labor cases filed with the nation’s top labor arbiter.

The first collective bargaining session must take place within 12 weeks from Monday, when the union and Las Vegas-based Station Casinos signed the settlement with the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board. By settling, Palace Station became the second of the company’s 11 hotel-casinos to unionize, giving the powerful union a victory after several years of clashing with the casino chain.

“We look forward to starting contract negotiations so that workers can have fair wages, job security and good health benefits,” Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union, said in a statement.

The union and Station will have six months to a year from the first bargaining session to finalize a contract.

The union had asked the federal board to investigate allegations of unfair labor practices after it lost a close representation vote at Palace Station in October. The final vote was 266-262.

Among the allegations, the union claimed that before the vote at Palace Station, the company tried to sway workers by lowering monthly health insurance premiums at all of its Las Vegas casino properties except Boulder Station, which had voted to unionize in September.

Cornele Overstreet, labor relations board regional director, said that after reviewing the evidence presented by the union and the company, he concluded the case could be litigated. But at that point, Station agreed to enter settlement discussions.

“If you lower health premiums at all facilities that are unorganized, but you don’t lower them at the facility that has just organized, and you do it - literally - concurrently with the organization, then a not unreasonable inference can be drawn that the reason that they did not get it was because they had just elected to union,” Overstreet said. “That’s juts our theory and we would’ve had to prove that in court.”

Station Casinos in a statement said it decided it is in its best interest to “to proceed with negotiations with the Union” instead of engaging in “lengthy, disruptive and distracting proceedings.”

Contract negotiations at Boulder Station began in December.

As part of the settlement, the company has also agreed to reimburse with interest Boulder Station employees the difference in health insurance premiums that were implemented in mid-October at other properties. Station has also agreed to give Boulder Station workers the reduction in health insurance premiums provided to other employees.

Palace Station employees covered by the settlement agreement include all full-time and regular part-time food servers, housekeepers, cooks, among several others. It does not include front-desk employees, dealers, slot attendants and valet parking workers.


Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO / More of her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/ReginaGarciaCano .

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