MMA Fighting: Union Memo Reveals Its Arguments Against MMA In New York

May 11, 2011

By Ariel Helwani

At the UFC 129 post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White stated that the real reason MMA had yet to be legalized in New York State was due to a long-standing battle between Station Casinos, which is owned by UFC co-owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, and a Nevada-based union.

"It has nothing to do with mixed martial arts the reason that we're not in New York," White said. "It has to do with the Culinary Union. The Culinary Union is spending millions of dollars of all these people who pay dues to keep us out of there because my partners, the Fertitta brothers, are the largest non-union gaming company in the country. So these union idiots, all these people work in the Culinary Union, pay their money towards dues, this is what all their money's being spent towards. Fighting the UFC from coming there and bringing money into the state of New York."

Culinary Union Local 226, which consists of over 60,000 members working in the food service industry in Nevada, has been trying unsuccessfully for approximately 15 years to unionize almost 14,000 workers at the 18 hotel-casinos operated by Station Casinos.

A quick look at the union's web site will show you that a large portion of their attention is focused on the fight to unionize Station Casinos. In short, the union believes that Station Casinos has violated workers' rights. They argue, "the company has illegally used threats, intimidation, interrogation, surveillance, bribery, discouragement, discrimination, discipline and physical assault against employees engaged in lawfully protected union activities."

So how could the Culinary Union's battle with Station Casinos in Nevada stretch across the country and affect the UFC's fight to legalize MMA in New York?

The Culinary Union's parent company is UNITE HERE, which happens to be one of two groups lobbying in New York on mixed martial arts. The other is the lobbying firm Brown, McMahon & Weinraub, hired by Zuffa in 2007, as well as Global Strategy Group, a media-relations political consulting firm. While the lobbyists at Brown, McMahon & Weinraub work on pushing Zuffa's case for MMA regulation in New York, UNITE HERE has been lobbying against the proposed bill to legalize mixed martial arts, Bill S01707A.

According to its web site, UNITE HERE boasts approximately 90,000 members in New York State alone and "represents workers who work in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, and airport industries."

MMA Fighting repeatedly attempted to speak with members of the Culinary Union and UNITE HERE for months, long before White spoke of the issue following UFC 129. Unfortunately, those contacted refused to discuss on the record the connection between the Culinary Union's fight against Station Casinos and the legalization, or lack thereof, of MMA in New York.

However, MMA Fighting obtained a memo that was circulated in Albany last month by the New York Hotel Trades Council, which is a member of UNITE HERE, outlining their reasons for lobbying against MMA.

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