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February 11, 2016

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Union workers rally at Venetian to send the visiting Paul Ryan a message

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Steve Marcus

Bridget Martin, political director for the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, pickets against Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in front of the Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. Ryan was reportedly meeting privately with a small group of supporters at the casino owned by Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire and major donor to Republican campaigns.

Unions Picket Against Ryan

Robert Autrey, a member of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), pickets against the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan ticket in front of the Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was reportedly meeting privately with a small group of supporters at the casino owned by Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire and major donor to Republican campaigns. Launch slideshow »

The crowd was hard to miss outside the Venetian front entrance Tuesday night.

More than 500 AFL-CIO union workers flooded the walkway to protest Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who was inside the resort meeting Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson as part of a nonfundraising event. The union dubbed it “Crash the Coronation” and asked for members of the “middle class” to meet outside the Venetian “moat.”

Plumbers, pipe fitters, construction and government workers marched in circles objecting to the economic policies of Ryan and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Their chants such as “Save the what? The 99 (percent),” drowned out the roar of Las Vegas Boulevard. Above their heads they hoisted signs that declared phrases such as “Romney Pathway to Poverty.”

Their efforts caused baffled stares from some pedestrians walking along the Strip and cheers from others. Protester Kristel Farris hoped that inside the hotel, Ryan took notice.

Click to enlarge photo

Union members picket against Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in front of the Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. Ryan was reportedly meeting privately with a small group of supporters at the casino owned by Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire and major donor to Republican campaigns.

“We’re here because Paul Ryan is in the building, and we want to send a message,” said Farris, who is from Portland. “I hope he looks, listens and pays attention. (Adelson’s) money will not hold back the power of the labor force.”

Darren Enns, secretary-treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council, said it was a two-pronged protest. Local workers protested Adelson’s decision to remodel parts of his hotels with non-union workforces, while also objecting to Ryan and Romney’s financial policies on a national level.

The protest drew support from local AFL-CIO union members, as well as people from across the country attending the Boilermaker and American Federation of Government Employees national conventions.

“It’s a local issue for us that live here, and the AFGE workers were kind enough to join us,” Enns said. “With all 18 crafts in the building trades here, it has become quite the event.”

Protesters remained peaceful throughout the event, even maintaining a walkway for pedestrians. After chanting and marching for an hour, many of the union leaders in attendance grabbed a bullhorn and addressed the crowd.

Enns pointed out all the hotels and casinos the union was affiliated with on the Strip to contrast Adelson’s decision to use non-union workers. AFGE national President John Gage spoke about the impact many of Ryan’s tax cuts could have on labor workers. He emphasized his belief that they only help the rich “1 percent.”

“I think Ryan excites working Americans,” Gage said. “His policies could change the country so drastically that it wouldn’t be recognizable.”

Click to enlarge photo

John Gage, national president for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union, rallies members as they picket against Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in front of the Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. Ryan was reportedly meeting privately with a small group of supporters at the casino owned by Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire and major donor to Republican campaigns.

Bridget Martin, who is a political director for the Boilermakers, said she was impressed by the number of people who showed up despite the 100-degree weather.

“It was exciting to see so many working people come out and stand up for the values they believe in,” Martin said.

Cecile Conroy, who is also a Boilermaker union member, said the Las Vegas protest is only the start.

“I think Romney and Ryan can expect a lot more of this in working towns,” Conroy said.

The Nevada Republican Party could not be reached for comment on the protest.

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