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Demanding higher pay, better benefits

There has been no breakthrough in contract negotiations as 3,700 Detroit casino workers are about to enter their second week on strike. The strike began at noon last Tuesday after the Detroit Casino Council and the five unions it represents were unable to come to an agreement with the city’s three casinos on a new contract.

The three-year extension to the five-year contract that the casino workers had with MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown expired at 11:59pm on Monday, October 16, but both sides agreed to give it until noon Tuesday to see if they could reach a deal. They did not, so the workers commenced with their strike.

The Detroit Casino Council represents UNITE HERE Local 24, UAW, Teamsters Local 1038, Operating Engineers Local 324, and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters.

According to the Detroit Casino Council’s website, the workers want five things from the casinos: 1) improved healthcare benefits, 2) job protection from technology like workers do in other casino markets, 3) better retirement benefits, 4) reduction of workloads that resulted from a decrease in 1,500 workers because of the pandemic, and 5) significant wage increases to keep pace with inflation.

Some poker rooms affected

“We sacrificed our raises and our safety during COVID in order to keep the casinos open,” a statement on the Detroit Casino Council’s site reads. “We thought we were making a deal: If we tightened out belts when times were hard for the companies during COVID, we would then share in the prosperity when business came back. There was no deal. We now have to stand up and reset the relationship between us and the companies.”

The workers agreed to wage increases of just 3% over three years in 2020 to help the casinos navigate the pandemic.

“The company, in my opinion, is not coming back with anything that is even close to fair,” Johanna Lams, a table games dealer at MGM Grand Detroit and a local UAW chairperson, told the Detroit Free Press. “When you start talking about inflation and start talking about pay rate, you’ve got to at least be close, and we’re not right now.”

“You’ve got people here working at MGM who don’t even make enough to have apartments. They are sleeping in their cars,” she added.

The three Detroit casinos are still open, but obviously have staffing issues and some services may not be available. MotorCity’s poker room is closed because of the strike. Reports are that MGM Grand’s poker room is also closed, although the website does not mention it, but Greektown’s poker room is open.

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