There were a lot of people taking a sigh of relief when the MGM Grand Detroit union employees voted “yes” to ratify a new worker’s contract with the casino this weekend. None may have been bigger than that of Alicia Weaver.
The 60-year-old guest room attendant and 24-year employee of the MGM Grand Detroit had a lot more to think about than just herself during the 47-day strike.
Not only does Weaver have a son that works for the casino, but she also was on the negotiating committee, representing all those workers that were picketing.
New deal includes 18% pay increase
“It was incredible, my emotions were all over the place,” Weaver said of having the agreed-upon deal go through ratification. “I’m very happy that we were able to succeed. It’s been a roller coaster ride. I tell you, this is something I’ll never ever forget as long as I live. There were some hard times throughout the process, but I think it was all worth it.”
Weaver helped negotiate the new deal, which is a five-year contract and gives workers an immediate $3 per-hour raise that will grow to $5 per-hour by the end of the contract. That’s an immediate 18% increase in pay for most of the workers.
“I have gotten nothing but phone calls since we ratified this contract of how happy the workers are to get back to work because it’s the holiday season,” she said. “We didn’t want nobody struggling during the holiday season, and this wage increase is real significant and it is going to make a difference in a lot of households come this holiday season. I’m very, very happy about it.”
First contract decline didn’t stop negotiating committee
This contract agreement took a little longer for the MGM Grand Detroit.
“When it first happened, I was devastated, to be honest,” Weaver said. “I was wondering what was going on, but I’m also a person that respects the vote. And the vote was what it was. If my peers say that is not good enough, then I have to roll my sleeves up and go back to the table, and make it be good enough by making the company move more.”
The “no” vote led to 13 days of further striking for MGM Grand Detroit employees, but Weaver and the negotiating committee remained committed to getting their workers the contract they wanted.
“In order to be effective, and get what you want for the people, you first have to have a love for the people,” Weaver said. “You have to be able to fight for those that don’t know how to fight for themselves, and represent them at the tables. I wanted to stay true to my word of what I said I was going to go do, and that was to bring a great contract back that would change lives.”
The new contract for MGM Grand Detroit employees includes a bonus option for the second year of the deal. It also has no additions to health care payments, job protections from technology advancements, workload reductions, improved 401k contributions, and a paid Juneteenth holiday.
What Weaver learned during the strike
The 47-day strike has been a long road. Weaver believes that along with getting a new contract, the solidarity amongst the workers has created a better overall environment for everyone.
“When you’re going through this, you sometimes feel like you’re the only one that feels a certain way, until you get outside and realize that you’re not the only one that feels that way,” Weaver said. “There’s a multitude of other people that feel the exact same way. There was a real solidarity amongst us, from the different casinos and the different classifications of work. We were all in this together and fighting for each other. It just felt more like a more family environment the way it used to be in when the casinos first opened.”
During the difficult days of negotiations, Weaver said she was continuously motivated by the relentless picketers and their desire to keep fighting.
“It was hard throughout the process,” Weaver said of the negotiations. “You know, because it was a lot of back and forth. Even when we felt like we weren’t moving forward, we still were moving forward. I think when I had my toughest days at the tables, and when I was going back to the picket line, that is where I really got my strength from. I would watch and see everybody still in the fight mobilizing, still walking every day and being true to the cause. That gave me the energy to go back for another day and keep fighting for them at the table.”
Weaver also believes the community support played a big role in their success for a new contract. She believes the community really fueled the striking workers.
“I’m just so thankful for the community, how they came together to help us,” Weaver said. “Whether it was through donations, through food, through hot food, or just looking out for the workers on the lines, because we’ve had some cold days out here. I’m just really thankful and grateful to the community just coming together and looking out for us. That’s one of the big things that I just want to make sure that everybody understand. We knew we were in a fight, but we realized we weren’t in a fight by ourselves, because the community was behind us.”
Weaver on creating a better work future
Weaver is eager to get back to work with her new contract secured.
This fight wasn’t just personal because of her own experience, but she was also fighting for her son. Antonie Meeks also works at the MGM Grand Detroit. Weaver wanted to make sure his future was more secure through this contract.
“This really was personal for me because I wanted to make sure that we set a foundation for him going forward, making sure job security wouldn’t be a problem for him and health care wouldn’t be a problem for him. But most importantly, having good livable wage. So, I’m really happy,” Weaver said. “My time is winding down, but his is just beginning. So, I just wanted to make sure that his future was more secure.”
Now that the dust has settled on this contract dispute, Weaver looks forward to a good working relationship going forward.
“I’m just glad after the long battle that, you know, the most important thing we gained out of all of this is our respect,” Weaver said. “I know management had to do some of these jobs while we were on strike and I think there is a greater appreciation for all that us workers do to help the company and the business.”
With the five-year contract secure, Weaver won’t have to worry about another contract for a while.
“I don’t want to think about another contract for a long time,” Weaver said with a laugh. “I just want life to be real simple now.”
The MGM Grand Detroit is phasing back to full operations this week, joining its two other Detroit casino peers.