Latest Solidarity Issue

Historic new contract for Foxwoods workers

PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF


UAW Local 2121 member Kim Jubrey casts her vote on the contract with Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino. Photo: SCOTT SOMMMER
UAW Local 2121 member Kim Jubrey casts her vote on the contract with Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino. Photo: SCOTT SOMMMER

Three years of persistence and hard work by workers at Foxwoods Resort Casino have paid off for 2,500 UAW members who on Jan. 29 ratified a historic first contract with the nation’s largest gaming complex.

UAW Local 2121 members in Ledyard, Conn., approved the agreement by a 3-to-1 margin in a vote of 1,053 to 355. It is the country’s first dealer contract negotiated under tribal law and potentially could lead to improved relations between unions and Native American casino owners.

“We worked hard to get dealers a fair contract,” said Yan Mei Shi, a Foxwoods dealer and member of the bargaining committee. “Dealers deserve job stability and fair treatment on the job. And the agreement is a great achievement.”

The ratification came three days after the casino workers reached the tentative agreement with casino owner Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise. The contract covers casino dealers at Foxwoods and MGM Grand on the Mashantucket Pequot reservation.

“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.”

“Foxwoods dealers asked for our help three years ago, and we promised we would stand with them,” said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union’s Technical, Office and Professional Department. “This historic, successful effort will be an inspiration to gaming workers and other workers fighting for fair contracts.”

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 new contract 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.

It also 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.

“Working together we demonstrated that casino workers can successfully exercise their right to have a union under tribal law and to have a contract,” said UAW Region 9A Director Bob Madore. “This shows 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 UAW represents gaming employees at four casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., and three in Detroit, and has made a commitment to help 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.

“Dealers across the country have been watching this process,” said Bunn, “and we are confident that this agreement will serve as an inspiration to them.”