As long as it takes . . ." "Just one day longer . . . " The chants are often used on picket lines. But the strikers who have held out for six years at the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas have put life back into those words and helped re-energize the entire labor movement. Finally, with the purchase of the Frontier by Phil Ruffin, a businessman from Kansas City, Kans., their strike is reaching a happy conclusion.
Ruffin, on Oct. 24, bought the Frontier from previous owner Margaret Elardi for $167 million and has signed contracts with the striking unions comparable to union contracts elsewhere on the commercial strip. And he has agreed to rehire every striker who wishes to return. In September 1991, 550 workers went on strike - Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165, both part of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees, as well as Teamsters Local 995 and Operating Engineers Local 165.
During its 1993 convention, nearly 2,000 CWA members trekked to the Frontier in more than 100-degree heat to support them.
"They are some of the bravest, most steadfast people in the labor movement," said CWA President Morton Bahr. "We and thousands of others have marched beside them and sang songs of solidarity, then gone home. They stayed and fought for all of us and inspired us. We congratulate them and we thank them."
The picket line will come down as soon as the Las Vegas Gambling Commission approves Ruffin's license and allows him to take over, possibly as soon as Jan.1.
"Ruffin approached us in an extremely no-nonsense fashion and said he felt Frontier could be extremely successful if it had a clean slate," said HERE local Secretary-Treasurer Jim Arnold. "We welcome him with open arms. I think he's going to make a welcome addition to the Las Vegas strip."
Ruffin has agreed to pay starting wages of $7.50 per hour for food servers, $9.50 per hour for hotel maids and $12 an hour for cooks.
Union workers, as a group, will receive $3.5 million in back pay as ordered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a National Labor Relations Board ruling that the Elardis' lawbreaking converted the strike into an unfair labor practices strike. Arnold said they would also receive six years' pension credit and that settlements were being worked out for workers' individual NLRB charges.