Opinion: Split Vote For Striking Detroit Casino Workers Falls On Union Leadership

Written By Drew Ellis on November 23, 2023 - Last Updated on November 27, 2023
Split Vote For Striking Detroit Casino Workers Falls On Union Leadership

The Detroit casino workers’ strike has hit a crossroads, and I’m not sure there’s a positive direction.

After over a month of union workers striking at the three Detroit casinos, a tentative agreement was reached between the Detroit Casino Council representing the union workers and the three Detroit casinos.

The new agreement seemed to hit on all the core issues the union requested. Indeed, two of the three union groups voted “yes” to the new deal and are returning to work.

However, workers for the MGM Grand Detroit voted “no” to the deal, leaving many scratching their head. It’s not a good look for the union leadership to now have their workers not under the same agreement.

How can things move forward now?

Where things currently stand

Last Friday, both the Detroit casinos and the Detroit Casino Council announced a tentative agreement on a new worker contract.

After a long day at the bargaining table, the sides agreed to a 64-month (5-year) deal that included the following:

  • A $3 per hour raise to start, which grows to a $5 per hour raise over the life of the contract
  • No increased health care costs to employees or plan changes
  • A reduction in workloads for housekeeping and other classifications
  • Technology protections that include required training for new jobs created by technology advancements
  • Severance pay and health care for workers laid off by new technology advancements
  • 401k employer match program up to $1,000 in year two
  • Paid Juneteenth holiday

These bullet points addressed the five major concerns the union workers had as their reason for going on strike.

On Sunday, votes took place for the union workers on whether they accepted the agreement. The vote passed for MotorCity Casino and Hollywood Casino at Greektown but was voted down by workers for the MGM Grand Detroit.

Now, union members are returning to work at the casinos that voted “yes” while the MGM Grand Detroit workers continue to picket.

Unity doesn’t hold during the vote

Throughout this strike, the workers have been unified as one.

When the contract was running out at all three casinos, they negotiated as one under the Detroit Casino Council.

As the contract expired, they voted 99% “yes” to authorize the strike.

They picketed together and supported one another through long days of being on strike.

When bargaining sessions were held, they were negotiated for as a whole. On the other side of the table, the three Detroit casinos negotiated as a unit.

This makes it hard to understand how we have arrived at this situation.

It seems like voting on the agreed-upon contract by the DCC and casinos should have been a collective vote for the union.

Either they all are on board, or none are on board. Voting individually by casino has now left this situation in a greater mess.

The all-for-one and one-for-all messaging got lost when it mattered most, which falls on the leadership.

If they knew one collection of casino workers were going to have a “no” result, then all should have had that same result.

“No” workers seeking more in new deal

I’m all for the union workers fighting for what they believe they deserve.

It’s not easy to keep up with the growing expenses of the world.

But now, more than half of the striking workers are potentially on a lesser contract than their peers.

WXYZ, ABC Detroit spoke with union members from the MGM Grand Detroit.

Some stated they voted “no” due to the contract length being too long, preferring a three-year deal.

Others say they wanted an increase in pay by $6-7 per hour in the contract’s first year.

Those who voted “yes” on the agreement that work for the MGM Grand Detroit are frustrated. They were set to return to work and are happy with the new deal and will continue to go without work.

Now, things appear to be at a standstill, as the casino and union aren’t sure how to approach this impasse for one casino while the other two already have locked in an agreement.

MGM Grand Detroit understandably upset

I can also understand the frustration of the MGM Grand Detroit.

You don’t have to be on their side of the strike argument to agree that this development has to feel like a bit of a blindside.

When negotiating alongside their fellow casinos, the tentative agreement was made with the DCC for the entire union. Certainly, the sides knew a vote was still coming but likely expected the union reps to carry a message of acceptance on the vote.

Now, MGM Grand Detroit has to sit and watch while its competition gets to return to full operation while it remains limited. They’ve already lost out on tens of millions of dollars during the strike.

This latest development will likely lead to more significant losses because customers can now get what they need at MotorCity Casino or Hollywood Casino at Greektown.

Detroit casino union workers will no longer be equals

We have a situation where one section of this DCC collection is now fighting for more than what their peers who fought alongside them received.

Workers at MotorCity Casino and Hollywood Casino at Greektown are locked into a new contract with their employers.

After striking for over a month, how would they feel to see their peers at MGM Grand Detroit get more in their contract?

I know if it were me, I wouldn’t be too pleased.

Whether it be more money, different benefits, or a shorter contract, there will no longer be unification among the striking workers.

Now 2,100 of the 3,700 who elected to strike are going to be on different contracts than the remaining 1,600.

How can the DCC move forward to negotiate future contracts for the whole when the whole isn’t on a level playing field?

Any agreement to add more pay to MGM Detroit workers puts them at a level higher than their peers. A shorter contract gives the MGM Grand Detroit workers a chance at another pay increase before their peers.

It’s a messy situation that clouds the message of unification we’ve heard from the picketing workers over the last month.

I hope a resolution can be met that will keep the union workers on equal footing and happy with their contract going forward, but that doesn’t seem likely right now.

Photo by Drew Ellis / PlayMichigan
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is the Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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