Station Casino Workers Gamble On Unionization
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Reporter Sarah McBride spoke to an employee who's trying to unionize her coworkers.
SARAH MCBRIDE: Las Vegas cocktail waitress Dawn Vaseur is tallying life's downers. The casino where she works cut her hours and benefits. Her tips are down. Her expenses are up. Over a cup of coffee at the Rancho Town & Country strip mall, she says her savings are almost gone.
MONTAGNE: I need my job.
MONTAGNE: But at the same time, she's doing something she thinks is making her bosses nervous. She's signing up her co-workers to join a union.
MONTAGNE: It was to stand up for what I knew was wrong and what I knew was right.
MCBRIDE: Vaseur works for Station Casinos. It's running into financial trouble, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July. Starting last fall, Vaseur saw lots of employees getting fired.
MONTAGNE: These are people I know, I've worked with for a long time - and it was pretty shocking to see them lose their jobs.
MCBRIDE: At most big Vegas casinos, workers are part of unions. If they get laid off, the casino follows strict union rules. They have a right to be called back when business picks up, for example. Not at Station's. When she saw long-time co-workers at a casino coffee shop lose their jobs, Vaseur kept thinking one thing...
MONTAGNE: We're next.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MCBRIDE: Harley Shaiken's a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley. He says organizing during downturns has a long history.
P: The birth of the modern labor movement really took place in the midst of the Great Depression, during the 1930s. That was far from ideal. In fact, it was a devastating time.
MCBRIDE: Dawn Vaseur says she's been harassed and that management puts down the union in the middle of employee meetings.
MONTAGNE: And I have to stand up and say you can't do that. It's against the law. And they told me shut up and sit down. That's terrible.
(SOUNDBITE OF CRYING)
MCBRIDE: And then what do you do?
MONTAGNE: You stand up and you voice your opinion, because those workers, they're watching. If you show that you're weak and that you can't take it, they're never going to sign. You got to show you got some guts.
MONTAGNE: We are not an anti-union company. We're pro-employee.
MCBRIDE: That's Lori Nelson. She's a spokeswoman for Station's, the company where Dawn Vaseur works.
MONTAGNE: We absolutely respect our employees' rights to be represented by a union if that's what they choose to do.
MCBRIDE: Nelson says Station doesn't tolerate illegal or inappropriate behavior by its managers. But she also says, by organizing 10 casinos now, the union is taking advantage of Station's weak finances.
MONTAGNE: They're using the opportunity of our company going through a restructuring to intimidate and harass our employees and encourage them to join.
MCBRIDE: For NPR News, I'm Sarah McBride.
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