Published Friday, Feb. 12, 2016 | 7:30 p.m.
Updated Friday, Feb. 12, 2016 | 9:15 p.m.
Synchronized clapping echoed from the Palace Station employee-parking garage as Culinary Workers Union Local 226 members concluded a protest tonight, sending a message to Station Casinos owners:
“We’ll be back! We’ll be back!”
The union had suggested there could be unrest and mass arrests after Metro Police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo allegedly denied a request to assemble.
On Friday, the police department contested the claim, noting that the Las Vegas and Clark County governments have authority over permits, not Metro.
“Sheriff Lombardo and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department unequivocally support the rights of any individual or group to peacefully protest or demonstrate legally in our valley,” according to the statement.
When the half-dozen squad cars left at 6:47 p.m. after the nearly two-hour march, there was no one in the back seats. The roughly 20 officers present generally steered clear of protesters.
Dozens of demonstrators attended the march clad in red shirts and holding mass-produced picket signs that read “Unfair Station Casinos. No Contract With Culinary Union 226.”
They marched, shouted, cheered, danced and listened to speeches by union leaders and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, who at one point led the march linking arms with union members.
Kihuen, a candidate for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, was recently endorsed by the 57,000-member union.
“The employees are tired” and “should have the ability to sit down and negotiate a contract,” Kihuen said, noting his mother’s longtime membership with the union as an MGM Grand employee.
Protesters unveiled banners in English and Spanish: “There’s a new SHERIFF in town. Sheriff ‘Arpaio’ Lombardo,” referencing the controversial sheriff from Maricopa, Ariz., Joe Arpaio.
That’s because, they said, Lombardo and the police department “treat union members and their supporters as second-class citizens who are discriminated against because of their advocacy for fair working conditions at companies like Station Casinos,” read a statement from the union sent out Thursday.
In the same statement, the union said Metro Capt. John McGrath told representatives that “there is a new sheriff in town and that the Culinary Union’s routine requests for permits were going to be completely denied.”
Metro said that’s not true. “McGrath indicated that our community had elected a new sheriff, and that it is Sheriff Joseph Lombardo who sets the direction for our agency.”
Union secretary-treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline, who several times referred to Lombardo as Arpaio, said the union has gone through proper channels to obtain permits to assemble and has been denied. She didn’t answer a question asking if they’ve gone to city or county officials.
The march began on the sidewalk on Sahara Avenue and concluded on side street Teddy Drive, where marchers entered a traffic lane after announcing victory. “We won,” yelled a union leader from a truck converted into a speaking stage. “The streets belong to the people.”
Station Casinos and the union have been battling for six years, according to the union, which also claims 65 percent of station employees have signed petitions to join the Culinary.
Lori Nelson, spokeswoman for Station Casinos, said on Friday: "The Culinary Union continues to stage protests and aggressively harass and spread lies against our company out of their continued frustration to persuade the majority of our employees to join their Union. We are proud of our 40-year history of treating our 12,000 team members with dignity and respect as well as support their right to join a union if they so choose as that decision is theirs, not ours, to make."