During the mid-1800s, labor unions in the United States of America sprung up with one goal in mind. That goal was for workers to gain protection and have fair compensation for their work. Corporations had previously exploited their workers, paying them next to nothing for difficult jobs and getting rid of unhappy workers just to hire someone else off the street who was willing to work longer hours for less money than the guy before him. These unions formed and fought for protection in the form of fair wages, better work conditions, benefits and equal treatment, among a lot of other things.

With the formation of unions, work environments went from bad to good, and standards were set for the way that we currently operate as a country with laws in place to protect workers and prevent poor treatment from their employers. It is safe to say that unions have always been a thorn in the side of owners. Union officials will say that they are just trying to get fair treatment and what they rightfully deserve, while company officials will talk about how if the unions worked as hard on the job as they do for their rights, then there wouldn’t be a problem to begin with.

One way or another, at the end of the day the boss usually bumps heads with the workers at some capacity. But what is going on between the UFC and the Las Vegas Culinary Union is beyond belief.

Station Casinos is the fifth largest gaming company in the country, and the owners are running a non-union operation. The Las Vegas Culinary Union has been trying to have Station Casinos unionized unsuccessfully for years now. What does this have to do with the Ultimate Fighting Championship? In a word: everything.

The owners of Station Casinos are Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, who are also the owners of the UFC. Despite the fact that the two companies are run as completely separate entities, the Culinary Union has gone out of its way to make sure the fight promotion struggles.

For what seems like forever, Zuffa has been trying to get the sport of mixed martial arts legalized in the state of New York, with the hopes of someday being able to put on a show at the famous Madison Square Garden. Year after year, the bill gets rejected and is not made into law, putting the entire operation back at square one. The leading contributor behind the bill getting killed year after year is the Las Vegas Culinary Union. More or less, it is a situation where union men are backing union men, who are the important people in the New York government, who are the same people who are turning down the bill year after year. However, this situation extends far beyond the borders of the state of New York.

This weekend’s UFC Fight Night 26 card is a perfect example of the Culinary Union stepping in and trying to disrupt the plans of the promotion. Boston City Council President Steve Murphy has been the latest thorn in the UFC’s side. He recently came out and tried to prevent anyone under the age of 18 from attending Saturday’s show. At the press conference where this proposal took place, over 20 members of the Las Vegas Culinary Union were present, backing the decision in an effort to hurt ticket sales for the show.

The union also went out of its way in an attempt to prevent Chael Sonnen, who fights in the evening’s main event, from gaining a fight license. The Culinary Union backed a group who filed a complaint about the Oregon-based fighter, citing his money-laundering conviction from years back and claiming that he regularly used sexist and homophobic language.

The list of ways that the Culinary Union has tried to chip away at the UFC is endless, and it doesn’t appear as though there is an end in sight.

At the end of the day, unions exist to protect workers. What the Culinary Union is doing is hurting workers in an effort to unionize a company. The umbrella that it opened is affecting many people beyond the UFC. The employees of the arena, who could get another shift and make more money, are losing out. The restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood are losing an opportunity to serve more people and catch the wave of people flooding to a city to catch the event. Hotels are in the same boat, along with airlines and other travel services. That’s not to mention the actual employees of the UFC, who would be losing out on another opportunity to punch in and roll their own sleeves up, from the fighters to the camera crew.

But more than anything else, the Las Vegas Culinary Union is giving unions a bad name. One of the biggest knocks on unions is that they can become too powerful, even to the point where they can promote laziness. A powerful union can demand that a specific task requires a certain amount of people on the job and certain compensation. If a union requires three people on a job that only needs two, it creates a situation where workers are not working to their capacity, but rather taking it easier than necessary. Despite the fact that owners are aware of this, there is nothing they can do about it, which ultimately hurts profit, which therefore hurts the company.

Although this is just one possible scenario, there are many others, both positive and negative. However, the resources that the Culinary Union is using are illogical as well. To be in a union, one must pay dues. The dues are pooled together to help pay for union representatives, lawyers, pensions, strike funds and any number of things. To think that the Culinary Union has gone out of its way for so long to hurt the UFC, one can only imagine the amount of money that it dedicated towards this effort. Those are funds that could have been allocated elsewhere and to more substantial benefit for the union’s members.

In addition, by doing whatever it can to disrupt an event or prevent it from happening at all, or by keeping the sport of mixed martial arts out of the last remaining state in the country where it is banned, the Culinary Union is going against everything a union stands for.

Cities should be excited when a show like the UFC comes to town, because it opens up a new revenue stream that isn’t normally coming in. The TD Garden, the building where UFC Fight Night 26 takes place, is currently in its off-season. The Celtics and the Bruins, who both call the arena home, won’t return until the fall, and the building sits and waits in the interim. In the meantime, the occasional concert or traveling show puts on an event. With the Culinary Union doing what it can to prevent the local businesses from catching revenue as a result of the show, it directly hurts the workers, rather than helping them.

For the most part, it is universally agreed upon that all workers should receive fair compensation for their work. Whether they are garbage collectors or doctors, they deserve a fair wage. If they are not getting that, then having a union to fall back on to ensure that the situation is fair, is indeed fair. However, the fact that there is a union floating around out there hell-bent on the destruction of the UFC by any means necessary based solely on greed is just a bad look. It is a bad look for unions, but as a whole, it is a bad look for one in particular, the Las Vegas Culinary Union.

Photo: UFC President Dana White (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.