MASHANTUCKET, CT – Hundreds of employees of Foxwoods Resort and Casino are one step closer to having a voice in their workplace to speak up for fair wages and working conditions. An overwhelming majority of ESD employees signed cards authorizing union representation by the New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE, a union representing hospitality and gaming workers in New England. Now, the nearly 300 employees of the Environmental Services Department responsible for cleaning and maintaining the casino facilities will be eligible to vote in an election.
Noticing the positive impact other unions have made for workers at Foxwoods, ESD workers began their organizing with UNITE HERE over a year ago. ESD workers have many concerns about their working conditions and say that a union will give them the voice needed to win a better return on their hard work.
“Many of our Foxwoods coworkers have a union and we’ve seen what it’s been like for them to have a voice in the workplace,” says Pierre Tassi, a 10 year ESD worker. “As low wage workers having a say in our benefits and working conditions is critical. If other Foxwoods workers are allowed that voice, why shouldn’t we?”
The predominantly immigrant workforce cites the threat of outsourcing as a prime motivating factor for forming a union. After a department performing kitchen work for the casino was outsourced to a third party vendor last year resulting in drastic benefit changes, ESD workers became fearful they could suffer the same fate.
“We don’t make enough as it is. If our work is outsourced and our benefits get cut like we’ve seen happen to other departments it will be devastating,” said Monica Batty, a Groton resident and 6 year ESD worker. “We have to protect ourselves, and we know the best way to do that is by joining together in a union.”
ESD workers have endured months of anti-union campaigning from management. Last month ESD workers testified to management’s actions before a legislative hearing before the Connecticut General Assembly. The workers’ testimony supported proposed legislation which would outlaw the use of “captive audience meetings” by management in unionization drives. Workers testified to being compelled to attend frequent meetings in which they were lined up against a wall and forced to listen to anti-union talking points without the ability to refuse to attend. More recently, Foxwoods has orchestrated one-on-one meetings between supervisors and workers in which workers are called in to the office and subjected to interrogation about their union support without the opportunity to leave, conduct typically barred in NLRB elections. To add to the anti-union atmosphere, three pro-union workers have been suspended by the company in the last month.
Workers will make their choice to be represented by UNITE HERE in an election conducted under the auspices of the Mashantucket Employment Rights Office. The election date is set for Friday April 20th.