Detroit casino workers walked out of work Tuesday, officially going on strike. It’s the first time workers at MGM Grand, MotorCity, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown have ever gone on strike.
More than 3,000 workers have voiced frustrations with their salaries and healthcare benefits in recent weeks, and they’re demanding higher wages and improved benefits from their employers. Contract negotiations began in early September, but casino owners and their employees were unable to reach an agreement over the last month.
“The workers are seeking contract improvements after years of pandemic hardship— including wages that keep up with inflation, healthcare, retirement security, technology language, fair workloads for housekeepers, and more— but casino management has been unwilling to deliver a fair contract for workers,” the Detroit Casino Council, which is composed of five unions representing most of Detroit’s casino workers, said in a press release.
Union workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike on Sept. 29. The union representatives said they attempted to negotiate a contract into the late hours Monday night, but didn’t receive a company response before the time of the strike.
“We intend to continue to operate our business during any potential strike and will remain open this week and beyond,” Matt Buckley, president and COO of MGM Resorts’ Midwest Group, which oversees MGM Grand, said in a letter to employees. “We will continue to offer employees work, and to the extent employees represented by the union choose to participate in the strike, we will take whatever lawful action is necessary to fill shifts and continue providing our customers with entertainment and service.”
Potential economic impact
The Detroit Casino Council estimated the potential economic impact a strike could cause for the entire state as well as the casinos themselves. It estimates that a strike at all three casinos puts at risk “approximately $738,000 in city and state tax revenue and $3.4 million in casino operator revenues per day.”
The DCC estimates that a month-long strike could cost Detroit $13.6 million, with the three casinos each standing to lose at least $15 million in gaming revenue. It’s unclear how long the strike may last, but the DCC estimates a notable impact for the city, state, and casinos.
“Despite record breaking gaming revenues and high inflation, casino workers have received only minimal raises since the start of the pandemic,” the Detroit Casino Council said in a press release. “To help the casinos recover after the COVID shutdowns, workers did not receive contractual raises in 2020 and 2021. In October 2022 and April 2023, casino workers received 1.5% raises, far below inflation.”
Employees on strike hold jobs on the gaming floor ranging from casino dealers to slot machine technicians as well as positions in the food, beverage, and cleaning departments.
The state’s mobile casinos should be unaffected.
Photo: Getty Images