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The past two decades have brought a sea change to Las Vegas. But one thing had always remained the same: The Aladdin Resort & Casino was the only non-union hotel on the strip — and the big prize for labor and its lawyers. That changed on Dec. 3, and Richard McCracken is still celebrating. It was a different era when the partner at Davis, Cowell & Bowe in San Francisco began representing the Culinary Workers and Bartenders Unions’ efforts to reorganize the Aladdin in the ’80s. Wayne Newton was still hot, and bankruptcy courts were still allowed to void union contracts. That’s exactly what happened in 1985 when a judge, who was overseeing the Aladdin’s first of several forays into Chapter 11, booted the unions. Now, after 19 years, three ownership changes and a Vegas-sized union campaign that reached its apogee with an image attack on Justin Timberlake, McCracken is proud that he helped the unions get back in. He says he’s proud that Davis, Cowell & Bowe has represented the Culinary Workers and Bartenders Unions since the 1960s. “I’m the third-generation lawyer in our firm for that union,” he said. But participants in the protracted fight — which included government legal action against previous ownership groups — hope most of the details stay in Vegas. The unions were “slamming employers as much as organizing union members, and that slamming took all sorts of forms,” McCracken said. The rancor grew with each successive bankruptcy and ownership change by the Aladdin, one of Vegas’ original 1950s kitsch goliaths. The casino went into a second bankruptcy after unions were forced out, was then bought, demolished and rebuilt by owners hostile to unions, went bankrupt again, and was finally purchased in September by a management group led by Planet Hollywood (which, incidentally, has two bankruptcies in its own portfolio). The unions went after the prior ownership group’s investors on the grounds that the new casino was ill-planned, McCracken said, and they saw a fresh opportunity when the bankruptcy brought in the celebrity-backed Planet Hollywood. Under McCracken’s supervision, the union posted a Web site, www.injusticetimberlake.org, which criticized the pop star for supporting Planet Hollywood. A linked site, “Planet Follywood Reporter,” trumpeted any negative information — from food reviews to bankruptcies and health-code violations — that the unions could dig up. “They didn’t like that too much,” McCracken said. But Peter Pantaleo, the Washington, D.C.-based Piper Rudnick partner who represented Planet Hollywood, said his clients weren’t fazed by the sites. “It was actually kind of funny,” he said. “It had more of a morale effect on the employees than on the ownership.” In the end, it didn’t take long for Pantaleo’s clients to come to terms with the unions. The group bought the hotel in September, and the unions were officially recognized last month. And for such a bilious dispute, Pantaleo had little negative to say about his opposing counsel. “He’s just a brilliant, ethical, tough lawyer � and one of those guys who, to be honest, makes you proud to be a labor lawyer,” Pantaleo said. McCracken said he won’t stop the aggressive Vegas campaigns, as long as some employers remain opposed to the unions. “If they allow the workers to have their choice without going through years of litigation, we’ll stop banging away at them,” he said.

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