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Atlantic City Mayor signs casino smoking ban into law at UAW hall


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Today at the UAW union hall, Mayor Scott Evans signed into law the first-ever smoking ban for a casino town. Evans was joined by local labor leaders and UAW casino workers who fought for the measure to reduce their exposure to secondhand smoke at work.

The smoking ban will guarantee all Atlantic City casino gaming floors are 100 percent smoke-free, and will go into effect Oct. 15. It was sponsored by Councilman Bruce Ward and supported by the UAW, the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution (NJ-GASP), the American Cancer Society and other public health organizations.

"This is a great victory for casino workers. Their grassroots organizing really got the ball rolling on a long-standing problem in the casinos of Atlantic City," said Joe Ashton, director of UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey. "We're glad the City Council and the mayor listened to workers and took the necessary action."

"CEOs who don't have to worry about access to affordable health care opposed the smoking ban in casinos all along," said Al Welenc, a casino dealer at the Tropicana. "I'm just relieved that when UAW members teamed up with public health advocates we were able to make a positive change."

"Now that casino workers have come together to solve a major health and safety problem at work through the smoking ban, the next step for these workers will be to win fair contracts with their employers," said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech.

After winning union representation elections at four major casino properties in Atlantic City during the past year, casino workers in Atlantic City are working to negotiate first contract agreements at Caesars, Bally's, Tropicana and Trump Plaza. Progress has been stalled by management delaying tactics, including several cases in which casino executives filed unsuccessful objections to election results.

"We voted. The results are in," said Welenc. "We've got huge majorities in favor of forming our own unions. It's long past time for the casinos to meet their responsibilities and bargain with us in good faith so we can reach agreements that help our members and help the industry."

Casino workers win election ruling at Bally's; Atlantic City community leaders support campaign to win fair contracts


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- A rally by community leaders to support collective bargaining rights for dealers and other casino workers turned into an impromptu victory celebration Wednesday when the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) confirmed a June 2007 election victory at Bally's, and certified the UAW as the union chosen by full- and part-time dealers, keno and simulcast workers.

"This is great news!" said Chun Zhu, a dealer at Bally's. "We won our election by more than 2-to-1 nearly a year ago. We knew all along it was a fair vote, with a huge majority in favor of forming our own union."

In the April 11 ruling released Wednesday, the NRLB in Washington upheld the Oct. 18, 2007, decision of Administrative Law Judge David Goldman, who dismissed all of Bally's objections to the election and found the vote to be valid and binding.

"The NLRB did the right thing by recognizing our majority," said Edda Osis, a simulcast writer at Bally's. "It's long past time for Bally's to do the right thing. They've lost their attempt to delay our election, and it's time to come together so everyone can win at the bargaining table."

"This is another major win for casino workers," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. "Dealers and all the other casino workers in Atlantic City who have chosen UAW representation have the full support of our entire union as they work to win their first contract agreements."

The NLRB announcement was well-received during a bipartisan press conference at City Hall, where Democratic and Republican elected officials, interfaith leaders and community activists had gathered to support casino workers across Atlantic City who have won UAW union representation elections and are working to bargain their first contracts.

Atlantic City Mayor Scott Evans; State Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Northfield; Assemblyman John F. Amodeo, R-Northfield; Rev. Reginald Floyd, pastor of Christ Worship Center Worldwide; Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, and Roy Foster, president of the Atlantic and Cape May Counties Central Labor Council, demonstrated their support for workers by signing a petition in favor of fair collective bargaining.

Since March 2007, a majority of casino dealers, dual-rate dealers and other workers at Caesars, Tropicana, Bally's and Trump Plaza in Atlantic City have voted in favor of UAW representation. Bargaining is under way at Caesars and Tropicana; the union at Bally's has just been certified and Trump Plaza is still trying to delay certification before the NLRB.

"Atlantic City is a union town," said Mayor Evans. "Most workers in our gaming industry are members of labor unions. This has been good for Atlantic City. We are a better place to live when our citizens work under contracts -- with good wages and good benefits."

"Everybody is on the same page," said Joe Ashton, director of UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey. "Community leaders, the Labor Relations Board and, most important, casino workers who want a chance to improve their workplaces. It's time for casino operators to get the message, get to the bargaining table, and work with us to negotiate good agreements that can help our members and help this industry."

"This victory is important for all casino workers in Atlantic City," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union's Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Organizing Department. "We're on strong legal ground, and our community support is solid. When a majority of workers speaks loud and clear in favor of forming their own union, there's only one acceptable result: fair bargaining for a fair contract."

The UAW, one of the nation's largest and most diverse labor unions, represents more than 8,500 gaming employees in Detroit, Atlantic City, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Indiana.



UAW members win smoking ban in Atlantic City casinos


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- With more than 200 UAW members in attendance urging prompt action, the City Council of Atlantic City voted unanimously on Wednesday, April 9, to ban all smoking on the city's casino floors.

"This is exactly why we joined together to form our union," said Terry Shindel, a veteran dealer at Caesars who suffers from respiratory problems. "People have been talking about cleaning up the air on the casino floor for years -- but now that we're working together as a union, we're getting real action."

Since March 2007, a majority of casino dealers, dual-rate dealers and other workers at Caesars, Tropicana, Bally's and Trump Plaza in Atlantic City have voted in favor of UAW representation. UAW supporters have also won representation elections at Casino Aztar in Indiana and Foxwoods casino in Connecticut.

"Secondhand smoke is a serious occupational hazard for casino workers," said Joe Ashton, director of UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey. "Casino workers in Atlantic City organized to protect their health and improve their workplaces -- and we're glad the City Council listened to them and took the necessary action."

The smoking ban, which will go into effect Oct. 15, was sponsored by Councilman Bruce Ward and supported by the UAW, the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution (NJ-GASP) and other public health organizations.

"We're very pleased that Atlantic City has taken a great step for healthly workplaces. Having the support of the UAW has been crucial in achieving this long-standing goal," said Karen Blumenfeld, director of NJ-GASP's Tobacco Control Policy and Legal Resource Center.

"Our union is committed to assisting casino workers who want a voice in public policy, just as we assist workers who want a voice on the job through collective bargaining," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union's Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department. "There is a powerful and exciting movement for change among gaming industry workers all across the country, and the UAW is proud to be part of it."

The UAW, one of the nation's largest and most diverse labor unions, represents more than 8,000 gaming employees in Detroit, Atlantic City, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Indiana.



UAW casino workers fight for smoke-free workplaces


City Council of Atlantic City to vote tonight on smoking ordinance

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- UAW members from Atlantic City casinos will attend tonight's City Council meeting to support an ordinance guaranteeing that all city casinos are 100 percent smoke-free.

Casino workers from across Atlantic City will send a strong message to City Council that they should not be forced to breathe secondhand smoke at work.

"I have seen pregnant women forced to work in the smoking areas," said Terry Shindel, a veteran Caesars dealer who suffers chronic respiratory problems. "My co-workers are suffering in this environment and it's not fair. Workers in the casinos have been treated as second-class citizens with regard to our health. We were left out of the last ordinance and we deserve equal protection."

Karen Blumenfeld, director of policy and legal resource center for NJ GASP, the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution, said the UAW's involvement has been crucial. "The people who go to work every day in these casinos are faced with the harsh reality that they are putting their health at risk. It is great to have the UAW as a partner in the fight for smoke-free casinos."

Dealers and other workers in the Atlantic City casinos are new members of the UAW, and some are in the process of collective bargaining.

"The UAW is a forceful advocate for safe working conditions," said Joe Ashton, director of UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey. "No casino employee should be forced to work in hazardous conditions, and secondhand smoke is a hazardous condition. We will do everything we can to assist our members improve health and safety conditions in their workplaces in Atlantic City."

The UAW, one of the nation's largest and most diverse labor unions, represents more than 8,000 gaming employees in Detroit, Atlantic City, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Indiana.

Compensation for Ford executives 'excessive and unjustified,' says Gettelfinger


DETROIT -- The compensation announced today for executives at Ford Motor Co. "is excessive and unjustified," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. The company said that its top five executives received more than $60 million in total compensation in 2007.

"Our members at Ford agreed to substantial sacrifices in 2007 to help Ford survive so the company can rebuild and reinvest in the United States," said Gettelfinger. "We did not sacrifice so that management could find a way to reward themselves with higher compensation.

"When we negotiated new agreements at Ford and other auto companies last year, we called on the companies to use the savings we achieved to reinvest in America and to deliver cost savings to consumers. We're extremely disappointed that Ford has apparently chosen to go in a very different direction.

"By all accounts, our 2007 auto agreements closed the so-called "competitive gap" in labor costs between domestic manufacturers and their foreign-nameplate competitors," said Gettelfinger. "But the competitive gap between U.S. auto executives and their Japanese counterparts remains huge -- and it will become even larger as a result of the increases in executive compensation announced today.

"It will be interesting to see if the news media, which has put so much focus on the compensation earned by autoworkers, will now give equal focus to the compensation earned by auto executives."

"Restructuring at Ford is still a work in progress," said Bob King, who directs the union's Ford Department. "The company has a long way to go to regain sales, market share and the confidence of American consumers. There is no performance-based measure that can justify the huge monetary rewards announced today.

"An increase in executive compensation is exactly the wrong message at a time our members and our communities are suffering from the impact of restructuring, downsizing, plant closings and job loss in the auto industry," said King. "We expect equality of sacrifice from all stakeholders in our industry. Our members will continue to speak out loudly and clearly about what is needed to rebuild our company and rebuild our communities."



UAW committed to a fair, equitable settlement at American Axle


DETROIT -- The following statement is from UAW Vice President James Settles Jr., who is director of the union's American Axle Department:

"Our union is committed to doing everything possible to reach a fair and equitable settlement at American Axle. But it takes two parties to negotiate an agreement.

"Last Dec. 7, the UAW negotiating team requested detailed information from American Axle so that we could evaluate the company's contract proposals and prepare for bargaining.

"As part of that request -- as is our standard practice when requesting sensitive financial data -- our union offered, in writing, to keep the information supplied by the company confidential. American Axle did not respond.

"Two months later, on Feb. 26, 2008, the company had still refused to supply the complete information we needed to make important decisions regarding proposals which will affect pensions, health care, profit-sharing and other vital issues for UAW members at American Axle and their families. Failure to provide such information is a violation of federal law.

"This unfair labor practice is one of the reasons UAW members are on strike at American Axle. In addition, the strike has been prolonged because the company has illegally terminated disability payments and health care for injured workers, as well as compensation -- including health care -- for laid off workers.

"Five weeks into the strike, on March 27, the company finally provided a partial response to our request. During a meeting with union negotiators today, on April 1, American Axle provided additional information to our bargaining team.

"We are in the process of reviewing the information provided by the company to determine if it is fully responsive to our requests. We hope the company will do what is required to meet its legal obligation to provide data necessary for bargaining -- and reinstate benefits to injured and laid-off workers -- so that we can settle this dispute and bring our members back to work as soon as possible."



UAW members overwhelmingly ratify new contract at Volvo Trucks North America


UAW workers at Volvo Trucks North America overwhelmingly approved a new contract for hourly and salaried workers at the New River Valley, Va., plant, with 93 percent in favor of ratification.

The vote on the new three-year contract took place on March 15, and covers 2,600 members of UAW Local 2069.

"UAW Local 2069 members can be proud of a winning a solid economic package, improving job security and maintaining good health care benefits for active workers and retirees," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said.

"These are hard-working people who were forced out on strike on Feb. 1, even though they wanted nothing more than a contract that would help them feed their families and return home safely to them every night," said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union's Heavy Trucks Department. "They are an amazing example of solidarity."

The contract also includes a $2,000 lump-sum payout now and 2 percent wage increases in the second and third years of the agreement. In addition, workers won increased vision and hearing benefits and protected recall rights for UAW members for the life of the agreement.

Members of UAW Local 2069, on strike since Feb. 1, will return to work on March 24.

The new contract expires at midnight, March 16, 2011.



UAW at Foxwoods' union election upheld


HARTFORD, Conn. -- In an important victory for workers rights, NLRB Administrative Law Judge Raymond P. Green today upheld November's overwhelming vote by casino dealers at Foxwoods to form their own union.

This ruling dismisses all of Foxwoods' objections to the election and clears the way for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to certify the union election results.

"We are thrilled that Judge Green affirmed that our election was a free and fair measure of the will of the dealers," said Denise Gladue, a dual-rate dealer in Table Games. "We have won every ruling and we won our election by a decisive margin. We have waited long enough. Management needs to respect our majority, recognize our union, and negotiate a fair contract."

Casino dealers voted Nov. 24 by a 3-to-2 margin in favor of unionization. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Foxwoods filed objections to the election, trying to get it overturned. The charges claimed that voters did not understand the ballot or the meaning of the union election. They also alleged misconduct by the union including threats and intimidation. All of the allegations were dismissed.

"We speak many languages, but we all know how to say, 'Union Yes!' And everybody who works here knew exactly what our election was about: We want a union!" said Wei Ching Siu, a part-time Table Games dealer. "My coworkers and I want a healthy workplace, wages and benefits we can count on, and we want respect. We all knew what we were voting for - a huge majority of us worked hard to win our union."

"Gaming employees have a definite home in our union," said Elizabeth Bunn, secretary-treasurer of the International Union, UAW. "The dealers at Foxwoods join a growing tide of casino workers standing together and standing up for a voice on the job."

The UAW represents more than 8,000 gaming employees nationally, including workers in Atlantic City, N.J.; Newport, R.I.; Evansville, Ind.; and Detroit.

"We are very proud to stand with the Foxwoods workers in fighting for good jobs in southeastern Connecticut," said Bob Madore, director of UAW Region 9A. "From the beginning, the Foxwoods dealers have been very impressive in standing together.

"The Foxwoods dealers are already acting as a union, standing up publicly against unhealthy levels of secondhand smoke," added Madore.

Since the start of this legislative session, casino dealers have been urging passage of Senate Bill 419, which would remove the exemption of casinos from the state smoking ban.

"We won. It's decided. We are not going to wait another year of appeals, for more broken promises, more erosion of our health benefits, and more people getting sick at work," said Jack Edwards, a dealer who has worked at Foxwoods for 11 1/2 years.

"Management has more to lose than to gain by continuing to drag this out in the courts. It is time for management to come to the bargaining table," concluded Edwards.

On March 25, the NLRB will begin a hearing investigating 35 unfair labor practice charges that have been filed against Foxwoods.



UAW supports Boeing protest on flawed tanker contract


DETROIT -- The award of a $35 billion U.S. Air Force contract to a European-based company is "a bad deal for U.S. taxpayers," UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said today.

"UAW members fully support Boeing's decision to challenge this award before the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress," Gettelfinger said.

"Instead of buying a tested refueling tanker, made in America by American workers, the Air Force is proposing to spend billions of our tax dollars on an untested plane, to be built by a government-subsidized European consortium," Gettelfinger said.

The Air Force announced on Feb. 29 that it would award a contract for a new refueling tanker to a consortium led by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) and Northrup Grumman. The EADS/Northrup Grumman plane will be manufactured in Europe and then "finished" in a facility, not yet constructed, to be located in Huntsville, Ala.

"Why should our tax dollars be used to send jobs to Europe, and then subsidize the construction of a new plant when we've got existing plants and existing workers who can do this job?" said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles, who directs the union's Aerospace Department. "This decision puts 40,000 good-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs at risk -- but it does not deliver a better product to our military."

EADS and Northrup Grumman won the contract, Settles noted, even though neither company has ever built a tanker with a refueling boom. Boeing, by contrast, has been building refueling tankers for the U.S. military for more than 75 years.

"Boeing's proposal is for a plane which is smaller and can land at more military bases," said Jim Wells, director of UAW Region 5, home to thousands of UAW-represented aerospace workers and their families. "Boeing's plane is more fuel-efficient, has lower emissions, and already fits with 99 percent of the Air Force's existing equipment.

"We look forward to the GAO investigation," said Wells, "because the U.S. military and U.S. taxpayers are not served well by this decision."

The UAW, one of the nation's largest and most diverse labor unions, represents more than one million active and retired workers, including about 4,000 workers at Boeing and its supplier firms in California and Oklahoma.



UAW members reach tentative agreement with Volvo


Members of UAW Local 2069 reached a tentative agreement this evening with Volvo Truck North America in Dublin, Va.

The agreement, if ratified, will conclude a strike by 2,600 UAW members at Volvo that began on Feb. 1.

"The solidarity and discipline of members of UAW Local 2069 is what made this agreement possible," said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union's Heavy Truck Department.

Details of the agreement will be provided to union members prior to a ratification vote.