AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler (shown fifth from left) returned to Detroit on Wednesday to support striking casino workers. | Ken Coleman
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler joined hundreds of Detroit casino workers chanting, “The people united will never be defeated” at Motor City Casino during a Wednesday evening rally as their strike nears the one-month mark.
“It’s time for Detroit casinos to quit gambling with their workers’ livelihoods,” Shuler said.
“Union casino workers kept this industry alive during the pandemic,” added Shuler, whose organization represents more than 12.5 million workers. “But despite Detroit casino owners making record profits, they are refusing to take care of their workers. This is unjust, unfair and unethical. It is time to pay the workers who keep you in business a living wage, to provide health care that allows workers to care for themselves and their families and to guarantee the job security their employees have earned. We stand in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters on the strike line as they fight for the contract they deserve.”
On Oct. 17, unionized casino workers at MGM Grand Detroit, Motor City Casino, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown launched a strike affecting 3,700 casino workers, including dealers, cleaning staff, food and beverage workers, valets, engineers, and more. The strike started a little over a month after the UAW’s “Stand Up Strike” began across more than 20 states against the Detroit Three automakers, Ford, GM and Stellantis, which all are headquartered in Michigan.
Casino workers are represented by the Detroit Casino Council (DCC), which is composed of UNITE HERE Local 24, the United Auto Workers, Teamsters Local 1038, Operating Engineers Local 324, and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters. These five unions represent most of the workers at the three casinos in Detroit.
Representatives from the casinos did not respond to the Advance’s request for comment. The casinos have remained open during the strike.
“The big three Detroit casinos must get serious at the bargaining table and stop bullying the union workers who made them so profitable. It is disgraceful that, despite record profits, these casino operators refuse to provide our members with good healthcare or pay them a living wage,” said Greg Nowak, Teamsters Local 1038 president. “Detroit’s casino industry has put greed ahead of the well-being of the people who made them successful.”
Statistics released by the Michigan Gaming Control Board on Tuesday show that revenue for in-person gaming at Detroit’s three casinos were down $20 million in October compared to the same month last year — the lowest month for Detroit casinos since December 2020 when casinos were shut down for most of the month because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The DCC estimates that local casino industry in-person gaming revenues from slots, table games, and retail sports betting were down 40% during the 15 days of the strike in October, based on Michigan Gaming Control Board monthly reports from October 2022 and October 2023.
“Detroit’s casino workers sacrificed raises and shouldered heavier workloads so the industry could recover from the pandemic,” according to a news release issued on Wednesday. “In September 2020, workers agreed to a three-year contract extension with minimal wage increases to help the industry get back on its feet. Since then, Detroit casino workers have received only 3% raises, but inflation in Detroit has risen 20%. In contrast, industry gaming revenues have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels to reach a new record high. In 2022, the Detroit casino industry generated $2.27 billion in gaming revenue and is on track for another record-breaking year in 2023.”
Nia Winston, UNITE HERE Local 24 president, pointed out that workers in Las Vegas and Atlantic City have won big contracts.
“It’s absurd that casinos like MotorCity with all their profits are forcing workers to stay out in the cold to protect their healthcare and achieve decent raises,” said Winston. “Las Vegas casino workers are settling the best contracts in their history just like Atlantic City did last year — contracts with the largest wage increases ever, reduced workloads in housekeeping, and advancements in technology, health and safety. We’re dealing with some of the same players here, so why should Detroit be treated any differently? It’s time for MotorCity and the other casinos to give the people of Detroit the respect they are due.”
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
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.