After more than a month of being on strike, Detroit casino employees are going back to work at MotorCity Casino and Hollywood Casino at Greektown.
The 2,100 union workers at the two casinos voted to accept a new contract this weekend after picketing for 34 days.
It was a rollercoaster month for the striking employees. But workers who spoke to PlayMichigan said they are happy to be returning to work after fighting for what they felt they deserved.
‘I was extremely emotional’: Workers react to new contract
It was a celebratory weekend for the striking workers at the MotorCity Casino and Greektown.
On Friday, the tentative agreement was announced and just needed a union vote to approve.
When the news broke, it was an emotional time for many of the striking workers.
“I was emotional. When I saw that we had an agreement, I was very emotional,” Tavera McCree, a 23-year valet cashier at Hollywood Casino at Greektown, told PlayMichigan. “I will say that considering all the hours that we put in in the day, I was extremely emotional.”
The new contract is for 64 months and covers the five main negotiating points the union members had.
- 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
Susan Gallagher, who has been a bartender at Hollywood Casino Greektown for the last 23 years, was part of the negotiating committee. Gallagher told PlayMichigan that being able to report the tentative agreement was a great feeling. Especially after the final negotiation session lasted over 24 hours.
“We’ve been working on this new deal since last April and to have it go until November, and finally get the proposal that we wanted, it was an incredible feeling,” Gallagher said. “Our top two things were health care and wages, and we got both of those. So, I was extremely, extremely excited and knew that our team, the people on the picket lines, were going to be excited. They were anxiously waiting for us to come. It was like, it was like a big party when we walked out of the negotiations.”
Workers eager to put dispute in the past
The union employees will be filtering back into work in the coming days and are eager to put this contract dispute behind them.
“I really don’t think there’s going to be a problem and, believe in me, if it arises, we’re going to get to work and we’re going to fix it because we have a great leadership team and our union,” Gallagher said of returning to work after the strike. “Our people may be a little tired, because we’ve been putting in 12-15,000 steps in a day. But, they’re ready (to go back to work). We’re all really excited. As long as it’s been it really went by quickly and really didn’t seem as long as it was. So, we’re all we’re all excited to go back.”
While there could be some underlying tension upon the return, much of the management at the casinos was forced to do the jobs of the striking employees. That could create a better understanding of what the union staff supplies to the operation.
“While we were striking some managers were doing some of the work of some of the members that were feeling disrespected,” McCree said. “So, there may be a change of heart that we’ll find out once we go in. So, we’ll see if they have a change of heart if they feel like now that they got to do the hard work, maybe they have a little bit more respect for what it is we all do. We all play an integral part in keeping these casinos operational.”
Public, customer support helped fuel union members
During the 34 days of the strike, the union developed a bond amongst one another in their fight.
But, the public support also helped push them to keep fighting for their goal.
“The public support was really motivating,” McCree said. “You might have your hard days because we had some cold days out here, but we had great support throughout. Whether it was just customers, or politicians in Detroit and Lansing, we had a lot of support. That is what was uplifting, and that’s what encouraged us to stay in the fight to get the best contract possible.”
Gallagher said many of her loyal customers refused to cross the picket lines while also providing the picketing workers with food throughout the 34 days.
“I look forward to getting back to our guests, because a lot of our guests brought us things during the strike,” Gallagher said. “They brought us food, paid for food trucks to feed us throughout a whole day. There was one gentleman out there last week passing out $100 bills to the picketers so I look forward to going in and seeing them in our usual environment. I know I’m getting texts from my guests asking if they can go back in now. So, I’m looking forward to getting back to doing the job that we’ve been doing for the past 23 years.”
MGM Grand Detroit workers remaining on strike
While the weekend has been celebratory for two of the groups of casino workers, the MGM Grand Detroit employees rejected the tentative agreement this weekend and will remain on strike.
The MGM Grand Detroit stated that at least 600 union members agreed to the deal, but that was not a majority vote.
For Gallagher, she says that even though the other two casinos are returning to work, the union members will continue to support their peers from the MGM Grand Detroit.
“I want to say it’s sad,” Gallagher said of the MGM Grand Detroit employees still being on strike. “But, we’re going to stand with them and we’re going to go picket with them. We’re going to help them as much as they need.
I don’t understand what happened. I don’t really, because the communication to get the contract out to the people, that was one of our biggest things that we did. It made me so proud with our texting, social media that we used to keep in contact with the 3,700 of us that are out there. So, I don’t know what happened, why theirs got voted down, but what I do know is we will be standing in solidarity with them, and hoping they soon can come to a good ratification of their contract.”
Work continues to get a new contract for MGM Grand employees
The Detroit Casino Council will be continuing to work on a new contract for the MGM Grand Detroit employees. Gallagher also had a lot of praise for the leadership of the DCC throughout this process.
“The DCC council needs to be applauded, the leadership team, because they did an absolute fantastic job,” she said. “They were organized and kept the action plans busy. Whether it was going to the Detroit City Council or to the capitol in Lansing, they had a plan. And, we get so much support from all the local and the state politicians. As workers, we almost viewed it as every obstacle we had put in front of us. We knew we were going to overcome it because of our leadership.”
PlayMichigan will keep you updated on the latest negotiations with the MGM Grand Detroit and the remaining union workers on strike.