March 21, 2013 in Nation/World

Scores arrested in casino protest

Hannah Dreier Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Union workers demonstrate Wednesday along Las Vegas Boulevard outside the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino.
(Full-size photo)

LAS VEGAS – Throngs of workers blocked traffic on the Las Vegas Strip on Wednesday in a demonstration against the Cosmopolitan casino that ended with the arrest of nearly 100 protesters.

Tourists watched from an overpass across Las Vegas Boulevard as police led workers wearing red union shirts one-by-one into a white police bus.

Police arrested 98 protesters, according to Metro Police Capt. Todd Fasulo. The workers chanted, “If we don’t get no contract, you don’t get no peace,” as they waited to be taken away.

Las Vegas’ largest and most powerful union has been in contract talks with Cosmopolitan Las Vegas owner Deutsche Bank for two years.

Earlier this year, the 54,000-member union held two one-day pickets outside the casino, which sits on a bustling corner in the heart of the tourist corridor. They marked Culinary Workers Local 226’s first pickets on the Strip since 2003.

Wednesday’s action was the first time union members deployed civil disobedience, the tactical use of nonviolent law breaking, outside a unionized casino in more than two decades, according to union spokeswoman Yvanna Cancela.

Cosmopolitan spokeswoman Amy Rossetti said management is continuing to negotiate with labor to “find a fair agreement.”

Protesters shut down rush hour traffic for more than an hour in both directions on the block that is also home to the Bellagio, Aria and Planet Hollywood casinos. Cancela estimated the crowd at about 1,500 people.

Moments before her hands were bound with a zip-tie, Janet Hill said she decided to get arrested to send management a message.

“They need to give workers here a contract; it affects us all,” said Hill, a porter at the Flamingo casino down the Strip.

Contract negotiations will open for most other Strip casinos in April.

Talks with the Cosmopolitan have stalled on a range of issues, including wages, health care and job security, Cancela said.

The 2-year-old Cosmopolitan was built by the German investment bank after its original developer defaulted. It is one of just a handful of nonunionized casinos on the Strip, along with the Venetian, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, and the Palms.

On Wednesday, protesters said they were worried that Deutsche Bank was stalling because it intends to sell the casino and doesn’t want to be burdened by a union contract.

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