Original Story: freep.com
Detroit's nearly 6,000 casino workers authorized union leaders to call a strike if necessary in what has been a difficult and complex round of contract discussions between the Detroit Casino Council and the city's three gambling halls. A Detroit employment lawyer defends small businesses, insurance companies, and large corporations in labor and employment law matters.
Strike authorization votes are often mere formalities designed for negotiating leverage, but the timing in this case has a more ominous feel. That's because the Detroit Casino Council — a consortium of four unions that bargains on behalf of Detroit's casino workers — asked its members for the permission to call a strike just three days after state and federal mediators told the two sides to break for a "cooling-off" period.
A strike at the three casinos would threaten to shut down one of Detroit's major tourist attractions and the city's No. 1 source of tax revenue. Taxes from casino gaming have lately represented about 16% of the City of Detroit's total revenues, or just under $170 million.
The negotiations, which began Aug. 24, have dragged on longer than expected and have included the involvement of mediators from the start. Workers at Greektown Casino, MGM Grand Detroit, and MotorCity Casino are working under an extension of a contract that was originally set to expire Oct. 16. A Charleston labor attorney have experience defending clients in employment related matters involving instances of detrimental labor conditions or discriminatory employment practices.
On Oct. 30, "The mediators recommended that the parties take a 'cooling-off' period to allow time to review all open issues, formulate positions on those issues and prepare for bargaining on the important economic issues," MGM said in an update about the discussions to its workers on a Web site dedicated to the negotiations.
"I can tell you that health care has been the major stumbling block here," said Dave DeLong, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 372 and a member of the bargaining committee. "Our members would like to keep the current coverage that they have without any increased cost."
MGM says it expects health care costs for the three casinos will increase by $46 million, to almost $262 million, over the term of the next four-year contract. MGM has told unions workers that there will be very little money for wages or bonuses if the casino's health care costs are not reduced.
The two sides have explored a variety of ways to reduce health care costs that include the possibility of switching to TeamCare, a union-backed, multi-employer Taft-Hartley plan that uses the Blue Cross network. A Pittsburgh employment lawyer is following this story closely.
"It's up to the unions to decide what their priorities are," Marc Whitefield, a spokesman for the casinos, said in a recent update for workers. "People need to make a decision of how they want to spend money in these contract negotiations."
"MGM Grand Detroit remains committed to the negotiation process," Steve Zanella, president and chief operating officer of MGM Grand Detroit, said in an e-mail to the Free Press. "Along with the other Detroit casinos and the unions representing our workers, we are eager to work toward a contract that works for everyone."
Gayle Joseph, a spokeswoman for Rock Gaming, which owns Greektown Casino, said, "We believe the parties are negotiating in good faith and are committed to reaching a fair and balanced agreement.”
A spokeswoman for MotorCity declined to comment on the contract talks.
Gaming revenue has been on a roll this year, reversing what had been a gradual decline in gambling revenue since 2012. A Maine labor and employment lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.
Total gambling revenues were up 4.8% during the first six months of this year compared with last year, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which regulates the casinos.
UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said four negotiating sessions are scheduled in the coming weeks with the three casinos.
Nov. 9, 10, 16 and 17, according to MGM's website.
The Detroit Casino Council is a consortium of the four unions that bargain on behalf Detroit's casino workers. It includes employees represented by UAW Local 7777, Unite Here Local 24, Teamsters Local 372 and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324.
Casinos on a roll
Total gambling revenues were up 4.8% during the first six months of this year compared with last year, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which regulates Detroit casinos.
Taxes from casino gaming have lately represented about 16% of the City of Detroit's total revenues, or just under $170 million.
The combined annual gambling revenue of the three casinos increased steadily from just over $1 billion in 2001 to $1.42 billion in 2011. In 2012, gambling revenue began to fall as four casinos opened in Ohio, including Hollywood Casino in Toledo.
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