Abstract: Networks of Power in Las Vegas, 1975-1985

James P. Kraft


This paper traces the efforts of the Nevada Resort Association (NRA) to undermine labor solidarity in Las Vegas in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when the city was still emerging as a major tourist destination. Through the collective bargaining process, the NRA drove a wedge between different groups of workers in the city and thus gained more control over the course of industrial development. The key to undermining solidarity was the ability of employers to stagger the expiration dates of labor contracts and strengthen "no-strike" clauses in contracts. As historians of industrial relations have often pointed out, workers did not sit by passively as employers undermined their power and rights. This campaign against labor resulted in two major strikes, both of which took a heavy toll on the local economy. The paper not only sheds light on labor relations in a tourist-based economy, but also illustrates how "networks of power" shape a modern industrial environment. Considering how these various groups of employers and workers interacted with one another has broadened my own understanding of how and why industrial environments change over time. My paper is based on a host of primary sources, including correspondence between the NRA and unions in Las Vegas as well as oral interviews. It also draws on newspapers, legal documents, and papers of the National Labor Relations Board. The paper adds to a large and growing body of scholarship arguing that the fields of business and labor history cannot be understood in isolation from one another.