Casino workers deal union cards

Some 2,800 table games dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., voted on Nov. 24 to have the United Auto Workers union represent them in collective bargaining. Eighty percent of eligible employees voted, with the vote going 3-2 in favor of UAW representation.

One of the most galvanizing events was a press conference at the Connecticut State Capitol Building on Oct. 22. Labor leaders, lawmakers and casino workers spoke with conviction to secure justice and fairness in the workplace. Forty-six members of the state General Assembly, all of the state’s constitutional officers, and one U.S. senator signed a petition to the NLRB supporting the dealers’ organizing drive.

In March, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a California “tribal casino” must abide by the National Labor Relations Act if it employs U.S. citizens. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal upheld the ruling for Connecticut. Foxwoods has refused to accept the result, and has vowed to appeal its case all the way up to the Supreme Court if necessary. The UAW remains ready to negotiate a contract immediately, and reserves the right to file unfair labor practices against Foxwoods.

During this organizing, Mohegan Sun Casino (Foxwoods’ nearby rival, nonunion casino) saw fit to approve a higher wage structure for their employees. Since the dealers’ election victory, Foxwoods has instituted across-the-board raises for virtually every occupation in the casino and hotel, except the dealers. These employees credit the dealers for their upgraded wages. Union advocates say this demonstrates that, in the presence of union organization, all boats rise.

— Paul Neal

Janitors polish union tools

COLUMBUS, Ohio— Some 1,200 janitors here, organizing with SEIU, won contracts with nine of the city’s largest employers last month.

“This is a historic victory,” said Service Employees union organizer Chris Moore. “It will double the income of some of this area’s lowest paid workers.”

Faduma Mohammed, a janitor and member of the organizing committee, said, “We now have the tools we need to stand up for our families and our communities.”

The agreement came soon after an Oct. 31 unity rally of 200 janitors, other union members and social justice activists at City Hall, where Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy spoke out in support of the union organizing drive. Coleman, the city’s first African American mayor, spoke sharply of his long support for organized labor. “I remember as a youth my mother working hard, tough jobs to help us get an education. We always supported organized labor, because organized labor always supported us. As long as I’m mayor, Columbus will be a union city,” he shouted to the cheering crowd.

The union contract effective Dec. 1 will raise wages, provide paid holidays and vacation time, as well as strengthen health care coverage for 1,200 janitors.

— Bruce Bostick