Vegas Workers Union Betting Update on PLA with Union Pension Money

A reader from sent me a Las Vegas Sun follow-up story on Local Workers Union # 872’s plans to bet with nearly $ 80 million in union pension funds to finance the construction of a new Las Vegas city hall (which will be built with a dedicated APL to unions, of course). We questioned this misguided use of union pension funds and wrote about a previous catastrophic investment by union pension funds in another all-union project that failed here.

Well now it looks like all bets are off. Worker pit chief The official had to muzzle the biggest political dog in the local and put him on ice in the doghouse because of some misinformation (“Not so fast, the union says loaned to the town hall”, 7/22).

That deputy, Tom Morley, was suspended for “speaking out of turn,” White said.

Morley, who earns $ 104,000 a year as political director and spokesperson for Labor Local 872, told the newspaper the union voted unanimously to use his pension fund to finance up to half the cost of a town hall project. City officials estimate the price of the project at $ 157 million, which means the union has reportedly paid out nearly a quarter of its pension fund.

On Tuesday, White, who is local business manager and secretary-treasurer and chairman of the pension fund board, said such a vote had not taken place and that Morley had grossly misrepresented the scope the financial interests of the union.

“Tom doesn’t get it,” White said. “He’s good at what he does as a political director. But the local and the pension fund are separate entities, and he doesn’t understand how the whole process works.

Morley was almost right. Local Pension Board is pressuring developers to create union-only jobs, but they are using a real estate investment trust (REIT) to do their dirty work – and possibly generate some profit for investors in the process.

According to company website, the fund provided $ 100 million as part of a $ 1 billion construction loan to build Wynn Las Vegas. White said the fund also invested in the Allure luxury condo tower.

As business plans stalled this winter and the city struggled to sell bonds, White said, he reached out to investment managers to pitch the idea of ​​investing in the downtown redevelopment. , including the town hall project, which the Culinary Union had tried to derail with a pair of ballots. initiatives.

(According to White, Morley also misrepresented the amount workers spent on fighting the initiatives. The union spent about $ 100,000, not $ 200,000, White said.)

“Since we’ve used a lot of this money on the Strip in the past, I was looking at how we could bring some of it downtown,” White said of the real estate fund. “I said, ‘You might want to watch this. See if it’s doable, provided there is positive feedback. ‘ “

He said he informed Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman of his idea.

As the market worsened, White said, he and other trade officials met with Goodman to discuss the idea. “I said to the mayor, ‘Do you remember the people we were talking about several months ago? Let’s see if they can do something with City Hall, ”White said. “The mayor said, ‘Let’s look at this. That’s as far as this conversation has gone.

Goodman made the idea public when he mentioned it, without incitement, at a city council meeting on July 1.

The pension plan’s board governs the investments, but the decision to invest in the town hall project, if it arises, seems far off. The city has not yet finalized the subscription for the new town hall.

As White said, “There are no numbers yet. And investment managers don’t look at projects that are someone’s dream.

Certainly Morley, the suspended union official, was right about one point: the workers’ union needs work. According to White, nearly 20 percent of the local’s 5,200 members are unemployed, on the “jobless” list.

“The job outlook is not good right now,” White said. “Anything we can do to build this economy – build, renovate, demolish – would be worth it for us… But we’re not allowed to do anything like Tom suggested.”