Casino Unions Join Forces

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - Four of the nation's largest labor
unions will team up to kick-start stalled contract talks with
casinos in four states, starting with New Jersey, officials
announced Monday.

The United Auto Workers, the AFL-CIO, the Transport Workers
Union and the Service Employees International Union are forming a
Gaming Workers' Council, designed to put the combined muscle of 15
million union members behind casino unionization drives across the
country.

The council will concentrate on dragged-out contract talks in
Atlantic City but will also try to revive stalled negotiations in
Nevada, Indiana and Connecticut.

The UAW has won representation elections at four Atlantic City
casinos but has not reached a contract with any of them after two
years of bargaining.

"We voted for the right and won the right to be at the table,"
said Sharon Masino, a dealer at Caesars Atlantic City. "But
instead of security, we have insecurity. We don't have a contract;
management can do what they want.

"They've been cutting back on our benefits, and they're trying
to cut back on our 401k," she said.

Masino said she spends $110 per week on health insurance
coverage and still has $7,000 in unpaid medical bills. To cut
costs, her husband has been taking only half the required dosage of
prescription medication to treat seizures and recently suffered
another attack because of it, she said.

"This is how Caesars is treating its employees, while our CEO
made $15 million in compensation," she said. "I'm quite sure no
one in his household is cutting their pills in half to get by."

A spokeswoman for Caesars' parent company, Harrah's
Entertainment Inc., did not immediately return messages seeking
comment.

In Las Vegas, the Transport Workers Union has been in talks with
Wynn Las Vegas and Caesars Palace for nearly two years, said union
Vice President Harry Lombardo.

"If we are to best represent workers in the gaming industry,
unions need to take a national and perhaps global approach, and
that is exactly what we are doing today," he said.

The council plans to conduct publicity campaigns, lobby elected
officials, stage rallies and conduct other activities aimed at
pressuring casino owners to reach agreements with the unions.

In Atlantic City, the UAW has won elections at Caesars, Trump
Plaza Hotel and Casino, the Tropicana Casino and Resort, and
Bally's Atlantic City.

The union has authorized a strike at the Tropicana but has held
off in carrying it out. Elizabeth Bunn, the UAW's
secretary-treasurer, would not address the likelihood of a walkout.
She said only that "the best way to avoid a strike is to have a
fair contract."

Elsewhere, contract talks are ongoing at Casino Aztar in
Evansville, Ind., and at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Conn.

Tina Phillips, a casino cashier at the MGM Grand Detroit, which
signed a contract with its casino floor workers, said things are
going well there.

"Our contract has good wages and benefits," she said. "We get
a raise every year. We pay $10 co-pays for doctor visits and $5 for
prescription drugs. Detroit casinos are a success. Our message to
Atlantic City and Las Vegas is: We did it and so can you."

John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, said it is in the
casinos' best interest to reach contracts with their workers.

"Companies that are at war with their employees are not helping
themselves survive," he said. "In hard times, you need all the
friends you can get."

Sweeney said the AFL-CIO recently canceled a convention it had
planned to host at the Paris Las Vegas casino-hotel "because of
Harrah's anti-union behavior."


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