Thousands of Detroit casino workers strike over pay, benefits

By: - October 17, 2023 1:45 pm

Striking Detroit casino workers outside of MGM Grand Detroit Casino on Oct. 17, 2023. | Ken Coleman

Updated, 4:43 p.m., 10/17/23

Casino workers took to picket lines on Tuesday outside each of Detroit’s three casinos after going on strike following months of failed negotiations for a new union contract.

This is the latest labor action to hit Southeast Michigan, with thousands of United Auto Workers (UAW) on strike for over a month at Blue Cross Blue Shield, as well as General Motors, Stellantis and Ford plants.

The striking casino workers declared, “No contract, no peace!” during the noon hour as motorists honked their horns in solidarity. 

“Our wages have not kept up with the pace of inflation,” said Nia Winston, UNITE HERE Local 24 president.

The Detroit Casino Council (DCC), represents 3,700 workers at Hollywood Casino at Greektown, MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino across five unions: UNITE HERE Local 24, UAW Local 7777, Teamsters Local 1038, Operating Engineers Local 324 and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters. 

Striking Detroit casino workers outside of Motor City Casino on Tuesday. | Ken Coleman

The DCC said through a statement on Tuesday, “No deal has been reached yet for thousands of union casino workers who have announced their plan to strike today at noon if no agreement is reached with Detroit’s three casinos.”

The workers include a broad range of classifications such as dealers, cleaning staff, food and beverage workers, valets, engineers and others. Workers are seeking wage increases, strengthened retirement benefits, protections against the implementation of new technology, and other gains to improve jobs in Detroit’s casino industry.

On Sept. 29, DCC members voted 99% to authorize a strike if deemed necessary by the worker negotiating committee. 

The casinos, which opened nearly 25 years ago, have meant thousands of jobs for metro Detroit area residents and have provided much-needed revenue to city government. The Detroit casinos are required to pay 10.9% of their adjusted gross revenue in city tax, and an additional 8% in state tax. 

They reported $107.2 million in monthly aggregate revenue during July 2023, of which $106.7 million was generated from table games and slots, and $477,543 from retail sports betting, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board. 

Striking Detroit casino workers outside of Hollywood Casino at Greektown on Tuesday. | Ken Coleman

The union has said that the Detroit casino industry generated $2.27 billion in gaming revenue in 2022, which includes iGaming and online sports revenues from online platform providers who were required by the Michigan Gaming Control Board to partner with bricks-and-mortar casinos in Michigan to obtain a license. The total land-based revenues were $1.2 billion in 2022. 

According to a report released by the DCC on Monday, each day of a strike could put approximately $738,000 in city and state tax revenues and $3.4 million in casino operator revenues at risk.

Matt Buckley is the president and chief operating officer of MGM Resorts’ Midwest Group that oversees the MGM Grand Detroit.

“We intend to continue to operate our business during any potential strike and will remain open this week and beyond,” Buckley said on Tuesday.

“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,” Buckley added. 

Correction: The story initially had the wrong title for Matt Buckley and wrongly attributed a quote to him.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.