Union OK in Passing Out Fliers Day of Trump Speech

Daily Labor Report® is the objective resource the nation’s foremost labor and employment professionals read and rely on, providing reliable, analytical coverage of top labor and employment...

By Tyrone Richardson

Aug. 9 — A federal judge dismissed Trump Hotel Las Vegas's claim that union-represented workers attempted to damage the reputation of the hotel when they distributed a flier the day of a speech by Donald Trump ( Trump Ruffin Commercial LLC v. Local Joint Exec. Bd. Las Vegas , D. Nev., No. 2:15-cv-01984-GMN-GWF, 8/8/16 ).

Trump spoke Oct. 8 at the Treasure Island Hotel, where the workers are represented by a union, instead of at the Trump Hotel Las Vegas because it “does not have a large enough space to host the event,” the Trump hotel owners said.

The speech came as the UNITE HERE affiliates were trying to organize workers at the hotel, which the Republican presidential candidate owns with businessman Phillip Ruffin.

The Trump Hotel owners alleged that members of the UNITE HERE affiliates Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 distributed leaflets that falsely stated, “Mr. Trump stayed at the Treasure Island Hotel on October 8, 2015 and not the Trump Hotel Las Vegas.”

Trump Hotel: Leaflet Was False Advertising

The owners alleged that the fliers were false advertising in violation of Section 43(a)(1)(B) of the Lanham Act and a deceptive trade practice in violation of the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Judge Gloria Navarro of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada Aug. 8 ruled that the owners failed to state a claim under the Lanham Act “because the alleged statements do not constitute commercial speech.”

“The complaint merely alleges that Defendants’ statements were ‘designed to call attention to the [labor] dispute' and ‘intended to, and would have the tendency to cause, harm to the reputation of Trump Hotel Las Vegas,' ” Navarro said. “These allegations do not suggest that Defendants’ statements were advertisements for a product or service, nor that they proposed commercial transactions or were motivated by Defendants’ commercial interests.”

Navarro also declined to rule on the claim that the union violated the state's deceptive trade practices law.

A spokeswoman for Trump's property did not respond to Bloomberg BNA's e-mail seeking comment Aug. 9.

Union: Leaflets to Show ‘Hypocritical' Action

Culinary union spokeswoman Bethany Khan said the fliers were intended to show how Trump treats workers.

“The leaflet’s core message was that Trump is hypocritical with respect to how he treats his workers: He used the unionized Treasure Island for his speech, but does not pay his workers as well as the Treasure Island workers,” Khan said in an e-mail to Bloomberg BNA. “Presidential candidates should be able to handle a little criticism, and should not use their business enterprises to attack critical speech.”

As for the UNITE HERE organizing drive, a National Labor Relations Board three-member panel July 28 concluded there was no need to review a regional director's March 21 decision certifying that eligible hotel workers voted 238-209 for representation by Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165. Hotel owners initially challenged the validity of the election, alleging that the unions used coercion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.