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Detroit Casino Workers Approve Strike Authorization

Negotiations for new contracts began in early September




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Thousands of Detroit casino workers could walk off the job soon, after five unions announced Saturday that their members voted overwhelmingly in favor of strike authorization. 

The approximately 3,500 unionized workers, who work at MGM Grand Detroit, Hollywood at Greektown, and MotorCity, voted to authorize a strike if they don’t receive “fair contracts” by Oct. 16. Negotiations on new working agreements began in September between the casinos and Teamsters Local 1038, UNITE HERE Local 24, United Auto Workers Local 7777, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324, and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters.

“The strike authorization sends a clear message to the Detroit casino cartel that our members are the ones who created massive profits for these corporations, and it’s time to share the wealth,” Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien said in a statement. “Teamsters and the labor movement are united. Our members will get a contract that rewards their hard work, or we will withhold our labor.”

Wage increase is key demand

The casino workers on the verge of a strike contend they’re not being compensated fairly. The strike authorization press release cited the challenges faced by casino workers during COVID-19. Those included “sacrificed raises” and “heavier workloads.”

Despite what workers view as a thriving retail and mobile casino industry in Michigan, they contend their salaries don’t reflect the major revenue being generated. The press release cites stock buybacks from MGM Resorts International and Hollywood at Greektown’s owner, PENN Entertainment, implying that the companies are showing positive financial metrics that don’t show up in workers’ salaries.

“Workers are fed up in an economy that is broken: Costs keep going up, but when profits came back to the gaming industry, they didn’t go into workers’ pockets,” Nia Winston, UNITE HERE Local 24 president, said in a statement. “Just like auto workers, Blue Cross Blue Shield staff, UPS workers, writers, and hotel workers, Detroit casino workers are considering all options available to make sure one job in a Detroit casino is enough to raise a family on. We expect the casinos to heed our concerns to avoid a strike.”

In addition to salary increases, workers are seeking increased retirement security and “protections against the implementation of technology.”

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images