In Pennsylvania, a group of security guards at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem reportedly made history on Wednesday after becoming the first unionized workers to be recognized by American casino giant Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
According to a report from The Morning Call newspaper, the 146-member Local 522 was certified as an affiliate of the International Union, Security, Police And Fire Professionals Of America in December and has now agreed a three-year contract with Las Vegas Sands Corporation that gives them an immediate 8% pay increase worth up to $1.21 per hour, a seniority structure and a greater say in work rules at the Bethlehem casino.
“These guys are making history today,” David Hickey, President for the 37,000-member International Union, Security, Police And Fire Professionals Of America, told the newspaper. “They’ve hung in there through some hard times to get here. They have a right to be proud.”
The Morning Call reported that Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which is run by 83-year-old billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, has more than 50,000 employees around the world including at developments in Macau, Singapore and Las Vegas but has resisted efforts by its workers to unionize for almost 30 years.
The newspaper moreover reported that the security professionals, who are now also the only union-affiliated employees among the 2,500 at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, first voted to unionize in 2011 but their employer appealed the decision to the National Labor Relations Board several times. In one defense, lawyers for Las Vegas Sands Corporation were alleged to have argued that the guards were already affiliated with the United Steel, Paper And Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial And Service Workers International Union before later contending that the group’s leadership had intimidated others into voting to create a union.
The Bethlehem worker’s unionization attempt was then reportedly delayed for over a year after President Barack Obama’s 2012 appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were deemed unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.
Finally, 2015 reportedly saw a panel from the National Labor Relations Board uphold a previous ruling that Las Vegas Sands Corporation should recognize the unionized workers and enter into contract negotiations, which is a process that began last year.
“The first contract is always the hardest but we’re pretty happy with what we got,” George Bonser, a recently retired Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem security guard that helped to ignite the effort to unionize nearly six years ago, told The Morning Call. “I knew it would take awhile but I never thought it would take this long.”
As part of their deal with Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which is planning a $93 million expansion in Bethlehem that will add a new poker room along with more high-limit table games and slots, the workers are reportedly required to pay monthly union dues equivalent to 2.5 hours of their wages.
“But this is about more than just money,” Hickey told The Morning Call, “For the first time, they have a voice in how their careers progress. It’s no longer a take-it-or-leave-it scenario.”