(“Minimum wage, child labor laws, eight-hour work day – that stuff’s for pussies.”)
For a couple of years now word has been percolating that the real reason MMA can’t seem to successfully find its way through the New York State Assembly might have less to do with the sport itself than with Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta’s purported anti-union business practices back home in Nevada. The Spark Notes version is this: The Fertittas’ Station Casinos group is reportedly the largest non-union company in Las Vegas and has a longstanding beef with a powerful nationwide hotel and restaurant workers’ union called Unite Here, which claims Vegas’ Culinary Union Local 226 as its largest chapter. That relationship turned even more icy in 2000, when the brothers allegedly fired 850 of 1,000 union employees working at a casino they’d just acquired. Ever since then the union has done everything it can to put political pressure on the Fertittas’ various business ventures, including bringing its considerable lobbying clout to bear in opposition to the UFC operating in New York.
Anybody who’s ever seen a Martin Scorsese movie knows you can’t piss off one of the country’s biggest labor unions and expect to do business in the Empire State, right? That’d be like publishing nude photos of one of the UFC’s ring girls on your website and expecting to still get press credentials. Just wrong-headed and crazy. Anyway, UFC Prez Dana White has long stayed mum about the Fertitta’s feud with big labor, but this week White mustered his usual political savvy and velvet-glove oratory skills to break down MMA’s New York legalization efforts thusly …
“It has nothing to do with mixed martial arts, the reason that we’re not in New York,” he told MMA Weekly. “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 … These union idiots, all these people work in the Culinary Union, paying all their money towards dues, this is what all their money’s being spent towards.”
According to a 2008 report from MMA Payout, Unite Here is a heavyweight on the New York political scene, with 90,000 members in that state alone. Payout reports “the union spent $100,000 lobbying the Albany legislature (in 2007) and made more than $130,000 in political contributions to the Democratic and Working Families parties. That financial commitment dwarfs the UFC’s reported $40,000 in donations to New York Democrats.”
We assume this is still going on today. So, if you were wondering how the UFC made some contributions to the campaign of New York governor Andrew Cuomo last year, only to have MMA legalization disappear from his annual agenda, that’s probably your answer. We hate to openly speculate (no we don’t) but given Dana’s quote above, it also sounds like we won’t be seeing MMA legalized in New York for some time. Or at least until the Fertittas become better bosses.