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Persistence pays off for Foxwoods workers; first-ever contract ratified with Mashantucket tribe

02/04/10

NORWICH, Conn. -- Having a first-ever union contract means more than a pay raise and improved health and safety and job security for Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand casino workers.

It also means members of UAW Local 2121 are now true partners in the future success of the largest U.S. gaming complex. On Jan. 29, casino workers, on a 1,053-355 vote, approved a two-year contract that establishes a model for the Native American-owned gaming industry.

It's all due to the persistence of c

UAW Local 2121 members vote on their contract.
UAW Local 2121 member Kim Jubrey casts her vote on the contract with Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino. The contract was ratified by a 3-to-1 ratio. Photo by Scott Sommer.
asino dealers who wanted a voice on the job and the union they asked to help guide them.

"We worked hard to get dealers a fair contract," said Yan Mei Shi, a six-year veteran dealer and member of the bargaining committee. "Dealers deserve job stability and fair treatment on the job, and this agreement is a great advancement."  

In the contract reached with the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, workers will receive a 12 percent wage increase over two years, a more equitable distribution of tokes (tips) that is designed to lead to significant increases for the overwhelming majority of dealers, protections from second-hand smoke –- including a unique smoke-free 24-table section, among other improved benefits.

Foxwoods dealers asked the UAW for help three years ago. The road to this contract was difficult, but the UAW bargaining committee was up to the challenge.

"These workers stuck together for over three years, and it shows if you have the determination to win, it can happen, and workers united can succeed," said Bob Madore, director of UAW Region 9A, where Foxwoods is located. "The bargaining committee and dealers should be applauded for their perseverance in accomplishing a collective bargaining agreement under tribal law. This is a historic achievement.

"We will work wholeheartedly to let people know that this is a great place to come for a union-friendly, worker-friendly gaming experience," Madore added.

The agreement stops the erosion of full-time jobs with benefits by reducing the number of casual dealers, who will be promoted to regular part-time jobs with benefits. Workers also won a real and fair grievance procedure, and programs to reduce repetitive stress and a major extension of medical leave.

"We put a stop to the erosion of full-time jobs and fought to make sure more people have jobs with benefits," added Denise Gladue, a 15-year dealer. "There are a lot of safety issues like arm and shoulder injuries from dealing. This contract is the first step to address that and many other issues."

The UAW represents gaming employees at four casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., and three in Detroit, and has made a commitment to help casino workers everywhere to improve conditions at their workplaces.

"Dealers across the country have been watching this process, and we are confident that this agreement will serve as an inspiration to them," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union's Technical, Office and Professional (TOP) Department.

"We look forward to working with the dealers at Foxwoods and MGM and dealers at other tribal casinos interested in improving their working conditions through a collective voice on the job."

 

 

Casino dealers reach tentative agreement on historic first union contract with Foxwoods, largest U.S. gaming complex

01/26/10

Pact is country's first dealer contract negotiated under tribal law

NORWICH, Conn. --The Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino, and UAW Local 2121 have reached a tentative agreement on a first-ever union contract covering 2,500 casino dealers at Foxwoods and MGM Grand on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation.

If approved by the membership, the contract provides an average 12 percent increase in dealers' wages over two years, and establishes a more equitable distribution of tips resulting in additional significant increases for the overwhelming majority of dealers.

The contract creates an industry model for job safety, including programs to reduce repetitive stress injuries, a major extension of medical leave time for workers out with serious illnesses for more than six months, and a unique 24-table smoke-free pit to help workers vulnerable to second-hand smoke and provide customers with a smoke-free haven.

"This is a great victory for us. This preserves our basic benefits during a tough economy, provides job security and contract improvements in so many areas," said Denise Gladue, a baccarat dealer who has been working at Foxwoods for 15 years. "We see this agreement as a win-win for employees and for the future success of the casino."

The tentative agreeent also puts the brakes on the erosion of full-time jobs with benefits by reducing the number of casual dealers through promotions to regular part-time with benefits, establishes a real and fair grievance procedure, and includes the strongest language in the industry on job security and control of tokes (tips).

The Foxwoods/MGM complex is the largest gaming casino in the United States, and union officials are hopeful that because the new contract was reached under tribal law, it may help stabilize labor relations at Native American-owned casinos across the country.

"Working together, we proved casino workers can successfully exercise their right to have a union under tribal law," said UAW Region 9A Director Bob Madore. "Our settlement demonstrates what we have known all along: that tribal sovereignty and employee rights need not be inconsistent.

"We value the investment and jobs the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe has brought to Connecticut, and we look forward to promoting this exciting resort as a destination of choice for working families and union members across New England," he added.

The gaming dealers, who were represented at the bargaining table by an elected committee of rank-and-file union activists, have scheduled a Jan. 29 ratification vote on the new contract, with voting from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. at Foxwoods.

Mashantucket Pequot tribal law prohibits strikes by workers and lockouts by the employer, sending disputes that cannot be voluntarily settled to arbitration. While arbitration hearings on the contract began in August, the parties reached this agreement voluntarily through separate negotiations.

Gaming dealers at Foxwoods average about $35,000 in wages and tips per year. Many of the workers are minorities, including Asian, Haitian and Latino immigrants.

"Everyone knows workers are facing difficult economic times, and the same goes for the casinos," said George Taylor, a blackjack dealer at Foxwoods for 15 years. "This contract gives us job stability and improvements we can count on, and we'll all be working hard to help our casino get on a better financial footing."

The UAW now represents gaming employees at four casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., and three in Detroit, and has made a commitment to helping dealers in casinos across the country come together to improve wage and benefit standards. The union has more dealers under contract than any other union in the country.

"When the Foxwoods dealers asked for our help three years ago, we promised we would stand with them," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who also directs the union's Technical, Office and Professional Department. "This successful effort will be an inspiration to gaming workers throughout the United States."

John Olsen, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said the labor federation will work to make sure 210,000 workers represented by its affiliated unions consider Foxwoods a union-friendly recreation destination.