John L. Smith: A Small But Noisy Union And Ruben's Second Chance


John Locher/Associated Press

Members of a laborers’ union celebrated the Raiders move in Las Vegas.

Laborers Local 872, which was a big supporter of the Raiders Stadium in Las Vegas, continues to face internal problems.

In late September, U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro ordered new nominations and a fresh election for the union’s vice president after a series of alleged improprieties.

But that’s far from the only trouble union leader Tommy White is juggling.

State of Nevada contributor John L. Smith has been following issues at Local 872 for many years.

Could sweeping changes be in store for the union, which has more than 2,000 members?

Smith also weighs in on the potential return of Congressman Ruben Kihuen politics. Kihuen remains in Congress but will be out when Steve Horsford is sworn in to replace him.

But Kihuen might run for the Las Vegas City Council, representing a large part of downtown Las Vegas. Could he win?


I started watching local 872 back in the early 2000s and I saw that Tommy White was clearly a very powerful presence within the union,” Smith said, “Insiders there at the union, even back in those days would call quite often and complain that White and his slate of allies weren't open enough to challenges within the union.”

Smith said those complaints were made back then and they continue today.

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The election problems this time around didn’t involve White, who is the secretary-treasurer, but he is an important part of the union.

“I think Tommy White's one of the most dynamic labor leaders in Southern Nevada,” Smith said, “He's clearly one of the most high profile. He's one of the most energetic and he's one of the most controversial.”

Smith said that White is the central figure of the union and complaints about the union are often about his leadership.

“He's known inside local as a guy who really rules with an iron fist,” he said “He doesn't like to necessarily be portrayed that way but that's how a lot of the folks who are critical of him - and they're mostly critical privately that's how they feel about him.”

While union bosses that rule with an iron fist are so common it almost feels like a cliché, Smith said that you don’t see the number of Department of Labor complaints filed in other Southern Nevada unions like there are against the Laborers.

“So, I think if you go by that alone I think you've got a controversy there that that deserves scrutiny and it's and it's playing out - not only in federal court - but there are other ongoing litigations as well some stretching back several years.”

Smith says depending on how things go in federal court there could be a shakeup at 872.

“There's no question that the goal of some of the folks who are critical of 872 is they want the entire slate opened so they can have new elections across the board and eventually that would include Tommy White as well who all doubles as the business manager of that local.”

White has been a big part of the political arena and during the special legislative session to decide on how to use public money for the Raiders Stadium White and his union were in Carson City publicly pushing for it.

“They were up there every day doing everything from barbecues to lobbying in the hallways on behalf of what they saw as a big job creator for them,” Smith said.  


Ruben Kihuen

Congressman Ruben Kihuen’s name came up again after a House Ethics Committee did find that he made persistent and unwanted advances on three women who were required to work with him for their jobs.

He did not run for re-election because of the harassment claims. But he might not be done with politics. He could be making a run for Las Vegas City Council.

“That's been the rumor that's been floated for some time,” Smith said, “Kihuen is very politically active obviously. He had really established himself as a rising star in the Democratic Party at the state legislature and then, of course, with the with the seat in Congress. But the latest in recent weeks has been that he's shown some interest in city council.”

Smith doesn’t doubt that Kihuen could win a seat in the city council he understands the process and winning a seat on the council takes just a couple of thousand votes. The question for Smith is: why?

“Is the public clamoring for a Rubin Kihuen city council member? Or for him being in office at any level? I'm not so sure that that's the case right now,” Smith said.

Smith said Kihuen is leaving Congress red-faced and while he might be young his troubles are happening during the #MeToo movement, where not everyone is going to be sold on his candidacy.

If he did run, he would be replacing longtime Nevada politicians Bob Coffin, who is not running for re-election.


CG Technology


The sports book company had said it would self-impose a nearly $2 million fine because of various violations found by the Gaming Control Board.

“If they're not in the good graces - and I don't imagine they are there - at least still street legal,” Smith said of the company, ”They're still licensed. It cost them a $1.75 million fine. Another $250,000 donated to a compulsive gambling center and also the company had to sign off on a lot of oversight in the coming years.”

Smith said the Gaming Commission signing off the deal shows that it is aware that company is an employer in Southern Nevada, not just a gaming licensee.

But it did warn the company that it did not want to see them back there.

“I think that's really the bottom line is that if they haven't learned their lesson the next one will be extremely painful,” Smith said.  


John L. Smith, Nevada Public Radio contributor

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