Leon Harris walks around the Local 872 Apprentice training grounds like the world is his oyster. The man glides. He has every reason; you see, Leon is the first full-time employee that is working on the Las Vegas Stadium. Not only that, but he is also a California Bay Area Native and lifelong Raiders fan. For him, this is a dream come true.
Local 872 training center
“I am the first one hired to help build the Las Vegas Stadium, and when that is done I get to watch my Raiders from the house I helped build!” – Leon Harris Local 872
There are going to be thousands of more stories like this by the time the Raiders kick off in 2020 in Las Vegas. Eddie Ramirez, another lifetime Raider fan and Los Angeles Native, was my guide during my last trip to Vegas. Never in the history of the NFL has a union gone “all in” to help get a stadium deal done, Eddie told me.
“It is pretty amazing, not only because its my team, but the members [ Laborer’s Local 872 ] will get back to work.” – Eddie Ramirez Local 872
That was a common theme as I toured the union hall.
Jobs. Jobs. Jobs.
Local 872 Medical Center
Before I could talk to anyone about the stadium work, Eddie drove me to Local 872’s Medical Center. Eddie told me that this was the first of its kind in Las Vegas. It is a free medical center to members and their immediate family. In fact, it looked much more professional and state of the art than my home town’s urgent care.
Me: Why was this medical center so important, Eddie?
Eddie: Every member has excellent health insurance, but co-pays can add up and lately there have been a lot of members sitting at home waiting for a job. No job, no money. Not only that, but the members, in many cases, feel more comfortable coming here. The health and safety of our members are very important.
This belief was on full display as I toured the apprentice facility. A nurse was on hand checking the blood pressure of trainees and keeping them hydrated as they trained in hazmat gear. Another group was learning to pour cement pads.
As Eddie and I went to the Las Vegas Stadium Authority Meeting, we ran into Local 872 Boss Tommy White.
“Hey Eddie, did you take Scott here to see the Medical Center?” – Tommy White Local 872 Boss
Tommy’s pride on that medical center was on full display. He made sure to tell me everything Eddie had already told me before, but he was so passionate about it, I just smiled and let him finish.
After the Las Vegas Stadium Authority Meeting
I wrote about what actually happened at the LVSA meeting here, in case you missed it. After the meeting, Eddie took me to the union hall, where my interview with Tommy White took place between phone calls from Marc Badain and top hotel exectuives. For the record, I am not that important, but the members of Local 872, including Tommy White, treated me with the utmost respect.
Tommy: Hey Scott, did you get to see the medical center?
Me: Yeah, Tommy.
Tommy: Oh yeah that’s right, but you have to understand, taking care of our members is my top priority. In fact, during the down years after the recession, we had food drives during the major holidays for members and their families. Now that was funded by the Construction Industry and Workers Charitable Foundation. That foundation has helped members get off the street during lean years, and many other things, which could be its own story by itself.
Me: Is that one of the reasons why 872 went all in on the stadium project?
Tommy: One of them, Scott, but this project is bigger than the Local, and bigger than the Raiders. Look at all the new work being announced in this town. Most of that only happened because the Raiders are coming here. It’s like Steve Wynn said, this is the biggest thing to happen to Las Vegas since I have been here, and it’s going to ensure my members have work to come for a long, long time.
Me: So everyone knows that Sheldon Adelson got the votes from the republican side, but very few people know that it was Local 872 that got the last of the republicans and the majority of the democrats vote. How did that happen?
Tommy: The Local showed up in mass in Carson City. Most of them had not worked in months. I told everyone of those representatives that if they voted against the stadium project, they were voting to keep the members unemployed. Not only that but those who voted against this would lose the Local’s support in the elections. Believe you me, I am no lobbyist, but they needed to know the union would not forget nor forgive. After the public speaking phase where many members told their own story about their own hard times, the representatives started moving into the yes column.
Me: Mark Davis is taking a lot of heat from both the politicos and fans in the Bay Area, what was your impression of him?
Tommy: I don’t get it. From what I seen Mark tried his best up there, and what is happening here, could have been happening up there. I think fans should blame the politicos up there, not Mark. Now Mark has been great with the members. Actually, we presented Mark with a 18 inch statue of a construction worker and he was genuinely in awe. At that point, I knew he would do everything he could, legally, to get this project going.
Me: Joining a union is not easy from what I remember. What does someone need to have skill or tool wise to get into Local 872?
Tommy: Honestly, Scott, they only need to be drug free, and have a high school degree or GED. In fact, just show up, be drug free, and we will help get them their GED and put through are apprenticeship program. The biggest thing though is being drug free. This is not easy work, Scott, and it’s dangerous. The last thing we need is to lose a member because someone was under the influence of something.
Me: So is there going to be anything that delays this project?
Tommy: Not anything I can control. I’ll tell you this, we are going to build this stadium better, faster, and safer than any other stadium that has ever been built. The world is going to know that the Laborer’s Local 872 and Las Vegas know how to get things done!
At the end of the day, it’s about the members. This project is going to put thousands to work, and create hundreds of other business opportunities for the city that will keep thousands working. And it is not just about my members. The Carpenters, Operating Engineers, Iron Workers, Cement Masons, Brick Layers, and Teamsters will all get their members back to work too. Basically all of the basic trades.