Although it does not mean a strike is imminent, almost 6,000 casino workers in Detroit who are represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) have signaled that they mean business if negotiations with three casinos in the city do not progress.

Union members at MotorCity CasinoGreektown Casino, and MGM Grand Detroit voted yesterday to authorize a strike, even before contract negotiations began. Four negotiating sessions are currently planned.

The 80 year old union started in Detroit auto plants in 1935 with 200 delegates. The UAW now has some 390,000 active and 600,000 retired members according to Wikipedia. Workers at the three casinos are represented by UAW Local 7777. The union represents over 12,000 casino workers in eight states.

Detroit has a fragile economic climate after filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013 holding a debt of about $18 billion, roughly the same amount as Caesars Entertainment, and the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. Tax revenues from the three casinos are seen as crucial to the city’s recovery budget.

Yesterday it was reported that the MotorCity Casino owners are donating $40 million to create a business school at Wayne State University. MGM recently announced that they plan to spin off 10 of their properties, including MGM Grand Detroit into a real estate investment trust and lease back the casinos to themselves. Today Rock Gaming, owners of Greektown Casino since 2013, announced they are taking over operations of three casinos from Caesars Entertainment.

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