WSJ exposes ‘Ultimate Dirty Fighters’ in Albany

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Nevada-based Culinary Workers Union Local 226 has for years failed in its attempts to unionize the Station group of hotel-casinos in Las Vegas. Station Casinos is owned by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who are also majority owners of the UFC.

Although the UFC has nothing to do with culinary workers, and indeed provides a vast amount of union work at arenas across the nation, it has for years been a target of the union through a series of underhanded steps that meander from the harmful to the bizarre:
•Backed anti-MMA legislation in New York;
•Called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate UFC parent company Zuffa;
•Launched a website complaining that UFC President Dana White swears a lot;
•Launched an online petition calling on FOX to back away from a deal to broadcast UFC events;
•Demanded Anheuser-Busch pull its Bud Light sponsorship of the UFC;
•Supported wacky MMA legislation in California;
•Demanded the Marine Corps cut ties with the UFC;
•Demanded that OTM cut ties with the UFC;
•Asked FOX to remove UFC lightweights Jeremy Stephens and Abel Trujillo from their UFC on FOX 5 fight for having a record;
•Petitioned Toys”R”Us CEO Gerald Storch to pull all UFC related toys from the company’s stores; and,
•Sent letters denouncing the company to teachers at Bishop Gorman High School, where the Fertitta kids attend classes.

Mainstream media has largely allowed the union to set up false cover organizations that appear to be concerned groups of citizens worried about the UFC. The groupes are in fact simply covers for a organization that has zero interest in the UFC or mixed martial arts; their true motive is the $15,000,000 in union dues they would get from Station.

The Wall Street Journal is one of the first national media groups to, finally, expose the truth.

Mixed martial arts—which is heavily regulated by state athletic commissions—remains illegal in Connecticut and New York. The reason? Union politics in Nevada, of all places.

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 of Las Vegas, which represents hotel and restaurant workers, has a long-standing vendetta against UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta because he and his brother Frank run casinos and hotels that aren’t unionized. The union hasn’t dared to run an organizing election on one of the Fertitta properties. But the union is still trying to leverage its political clout to stop UFC expansion wherever it can.

Enter Sheldon Silver, the boss of New York politics. Democrats dominate the state Assembly, and Mr. Silver of lower Manhattan dominates his fellow Democrats. He’s been Speaker since 1994, and he’s refused even to allow a vote on a bill to legalize mixed-martial arts in the state

The bill has passed the state Senate four years in a row only to be bottled up each time by Mr. Silver. Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle is the bill’s lead supporter and he has 63 co-sponsors out of 150 members. But even he can’t get a vote past Mr. Silver, who won’t explain his opposition.

UFC has tried to work behind the scenes, but it has more or less been told that the price of getting into New York is to bow to the culinary union. Specifically, the union wants the Fertitta brothers to declare their neutrality in any election and let the union onto their properties to organize via a non-secret “card check” tally. That means potentially subjecting employees to union intimidation, and the Fertittas have understandably refused.

Mr. Silver’s obstinance is costing the New York economy, which could benefit from as many as 50 bouts a year. UFC estimates that only two fights, in Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden and Buffalo’s HSBC Arena, could generate as much as $16 million in business for the Empire State. The economically bereft upstate could use the jobs in particular.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has made supporting noises about UFC’s request to enter the state, but as usual he refuses to take on a union, much less Mr. Silver. So it goes in New York, which desperately needs jobs but where union political extortion is nastier than anything you’ll ever see in the Octagon.

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