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November 17, 2017

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Deal sets stage for Palace Station workers to unionize

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Christopher DeVargas

Supporters of Culinary Local 226 gather in front of Palace Station to demonstrate their frustrations with Station Casinos’ treatment of employees, Friday Feb 12, 2016.

Culinary Union Protest

The Culinary Union protests in front of Palace Station, in an ongoing attempt to unionize employees at the Station Casinos chain, Friday July 10, 2015. Launch slideshow »

In a rare agreement, signed Monday, Station Casinos has agreed to stop fighting the attempt by Culinary Workers Union Local 226 to unionize Palace Station.

Cornele Overstreet, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, said that according to the agreement, the first bargaining session has to take place within 12 weeks. Once that session occurs, the union and Station has from six months to a year to come up with a contract.

The agreement was reached after Overstreet looked into allegations that Station had violated the National Labor Relations Act during an election at Palace Station in mid-October to see if workers there wanted to be represented by the Culinary.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, 262 people voted to unionize in the election and 266 voting not to unionize.

In the wake of the Palace Station loss, the union claimed Station had rigged the election. Overstreet looked into the allegations, including one that Station tried to influence workers by lowering health insurance premium costs at every location but Boulder Station, where the union had won an election to unionize workers only a month earlier.

“We allege that not giving the same offer to Boulder employees was essentially sending a signal to employees at Boulder and other Station Casinos properties that if you select the union you will be punished,” Overstreet said.

Initially it appeared that another election would be held at Palace Station. However, Overstreet said that the alleged violations made that impractical.

“In certain circumstances, we may find the unfair labor practices are of such significance that they preclude the holding of a fair election,” he said.

Overstreet also explained that any official conclusion about the allegations would be made by a federal administrative law judge.

However, because labor law cases can be appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court, the NLRB will often ask a local judge to order the parties to enter into negotiations.

“While the case is being tried before the federal judge, there’s no bargaining. And sometimes it takes years to get a decision. So in these cases we ask for an immediate injunction ordering this company to bargain with the union … So that possibility had not been made yet but that possibility was looming out there.”

Overstreet said that cases like this, where allegations are made and the company faces this kind of legal pressure to negotiate, are rare. “Maybe two in a year will end up in bargain order of this type or sort,” he said.

In a press release, the Culinary applauded workers at Palace Station.

“The union and Boulder Station workers’ negotiation committee have been in contract talks with Boulder Station since December, and Palace Station workers will soon join in bargaining,” the union said in the release.

“We commend the Palace Station workers for their courage and resilience in the face of the company’s massive anti-union campaign,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “We look forward to starting contract negotiations so that workers can have fair wages, job security, and good health benefits.”

In a statement, Station acknowledged its intent to enter into negotiations.

"In October, the Culinary Workers Union was narrowly defeated in a secret ballot election held at the property, which was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. However, the union objected to the election results, claiming that Palace Station interfered with the conduct of a free and fair election. Rather than engage in lengthy, disruptive and distracting proceedings, the company has decided that it would be in its best interests to proceed with negotiations with the union as the collective bargaining representative at Palace Station for the eligible bargaining unit team members at that property," the statement reads.

Overstreet said that as part of the settlement, Station agreed to reimburse all Boulder Station employees for the difference in health plan premiums.

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