Sunday, Feb. 1, 1998 | 2:21 a.m.
The nation's longest labor dispute ended early Sunday, as hundreds of striking Frontier workers took down their picket line and marched triumphantly into the Strip hotel-casino for the first time in nearly six-and-half years.
The final hour of the epic strike, which captured the hearts of labor leaders across the country, was celebrated with a massive block party put on by the Culinary union, one of five striking unions.
After a series of emotional speeches, the strikers - lead by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka and Gov. Bob Miller - walked arm-and-arm into the hotel to a crowd of cheering supporters.
As they marched inside, Jackson lead the strikers in a chant of "We are the union - the mighty, mighty union."
The Culinary union and four other locals - Bartenders 165, Teamsters 995, Operating Engineers 501 and Carpenters 1780 - have been on strike since Sept. 21, 1991.
More than two dozen elected officials, including Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Bryan, both D-Nev., joined a crowd of 1,000 to mark the end of the strike.
Jackson and labor leaders hailed the strike as a symbol of the resurgence in the American labor movement.
Jackson called the end of the strike "a victory for America" and a "new day and a new frontier for all of Las Vegas."
Trumka said the Frontier struggle proved that when union members "fight together they can win together."
Trumka added the entire labor movement is indebted to the Frontier strikers. He said the Frontier strike and Las Vegas have become the "hope" to every working man and woman in the country.
The crowd chanted "Six, four and ten," as they walked up the Strip, reminding everyone of the six years, four months and 10 days it took before the strike ended.
They cheered when Jackson joined Kansas Industrialist Phil Ruffin in cutting the ribbon on the New Frontier. Ruffin's purchase of the Frontier lead to the end of the strike.
Ruffin, who owns a dozen Marriott hotels across the country and in the Bahamas, bought the once-troubled resort in late October from Margaret Elardi for $165 million. He has agreed to open the hotel-casino, which is being renamed the New Frontier, with a union contract.
Ruffin said he's making room to hire back about 280 of the original strikers who want to return to work. More than 100 of the current Frontier workers are being laid off to accommodate the strikers, he said.
Ruffin said he was happy to have the strikers back since they showed nerve and moxie throughout the 6 1/2 -year strike.
The ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.