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Labor union protesting in front of Stateline casino

by Bill Rozak
brozak@tahoedailytribune.com
A labor union is using a giant inflatable rat to protest a Stateline casino.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

A local labor union has protested for nearly a week in front of a Lake Tahoe casino by using a large inflatable rat that is impossible to miss while driving or walking through Stateline.

The giant gray rat in front of Harveys Lake Tahoe main entrance stands about 15-feet tall, has glowing red eyes and large front teeth that resemble fangs and is holding a sign that reads, “Harveys has rats.”

The union is not claiming Harveys has actual rodents, but it is accusing the conglomerate of hiring what they call a “rat” construction company.

“We are protesting Harveys for hiring what we believe is a low-level contractor, that doesn’t drug test and uses unsafe practices,” Eloy Jara, assistant business manager for Laborer’s International Local 169 based out of Reno, said Friday. “The rat signifies that we are accusing Harveys of hiring a rat contractor that is a non-union. We’re mad because our contractors possibly didn’t even get a chance to bid the job.”

Jara said they first started protesting on Monday and were quickly “checked out” by law enforcement. He said Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies told him that they were legal with their protest.

On Wednesday, Lara was instructed by deputies to take down the rat.

“They threatened to give us a citation, and we told them we’d happily accept it because we felt it was unlawful,” Lara said. “That they’d be violating our First Amendment rights.”

Douglas County Undersheriff Ron Elges said they received some phone calls, complaints from businesses in the casino corridor.

“We thought they might be blocking the pedestrian walkway but after further inspection, they are within their legal rights,” Elges said. “They weren’t obstructing traffic. As long as they are not blocking the path and it’s not a safety hazard, they are legal.”

The protestors are handing out flyers with a big, bright red word “CAUTION” at the top with the name of what they call a suspect company and an image that looks like a construction worker running out of the way of a collapsing building.

“We’re going to be here five days once a month and one day every week,” Lara said. “It’s an uphill battle but we want to send a message to Harveys that we’re not tolerating their hiring practices.”