What was just a threat has turned into a vote to strike for nearly 200 employees at the Mardi Gras Casino in Cross Lanes, West Virginia.

On Friday, September 25th  members of the United Steelworkers Union authorized a strike against the Cross Lanes casino after the company’s best and final offer was rejected regarding amendments to employee insurance policies, an issue that has been the source of negotiations since the first week of August.

Rather than being based solely on dollar and cents, negotiations reached a stalemate when the language of the contract couldn’t be agreed upon. The current language of the contract effectively eliminates any bargaining power over insurance changes and costs employees have, subjecting employees to the lowest insurance coverage allowed by law, and increasing the current premium contribution paid by employees by more than 200 percent.

Casino administrators rejected an offer for a 50/50 split of the premium increase by union members who say the company won’t cover the cost even though they can afford it.

Commenting about the loss of bargaining power, nearby Cross Lanes resident Kenneth Thomas who has been a union member for 45 years in the plumbing industry, said “Once you lose that you just may as well be working as an hourly or temporary employee,” and added that the union is useless without collective bargaining, according to a WCHS ABC8 report.

The new insurance premium goes into effect on October 1st and union members say that’s also the deadline to go on strike at the popular local casino whose catchphrase is “It’s always a party.” An indicator of the union members commitment to the strike, Ron Brady president of USW 14614 said, “If we have to strike we’ll give our strike notice, we’ll go out, and we’ll stay as long as it takes.”

Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this story we mistakenly ran an image of Mardis Gras Casino in Hallandale, Florida.

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