It’s been an arduous journey for workers at Detroit, Michigan‘s three casinos, but on Sunday, after months of complicated negotiations, workers ratified a new five-year contract.
In an email from the president of Unite Here Local 24, Joe Daugherty, who is the head of a bargaining committee for a consortium of four unions, he said the contract was approved by a majority of workers at all three casinos. The vote was 76% in favor at MGM Grand, 95% in favor at Greektown, and 85% in favor at Motor City, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The new contract replaces the previous one that expired on October 16 and gives full-time workers a $4,250 signing bonus, maintains healthcare costs for approximately 6,000 workers represented by the Detroit Casino Council, and provides modest wage increases in years four and five of the contract. The council includes members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324, UAW Local 7777, Teamsters Local 372, and Unite Here Local 24, all of whom work at the three casinos.
City leaders in Detroit closely monitored the negotiations because of the region’s intense competition for the gaming dollar and the vast revenue at stake. Not only are the city’s casinos a tourist draw, but they are a major employer in Detroit, and one of the biggest tax contributors. A tentative agreement was reached between the council and the casinos on December 6 after a six-day final round of negotiations. Health care was among the key issues that were part of the final negotiations, and by far the most difficult.
From day one of talks the labor unions were warned by the negotiators for the casinos that unless more money was contributed to health care little money would be available for raises and bonuses. Casino negotiators told labor leaders that over the next four years those costs would increase by $46 million to almost $262 million. According to an update on Unite Here Local 24’s website, when everything was said and done, an agreement was successfully negotiated by the labor unions that maintain the existing HAP/Blue Cross plans, adding nothing to premium costs. Other contract gains for workers include wage increases in the fourth and fifth year of the contract of 2% and 3% respectively, among others.
Negotiations between the city’s three casinos and the Detroit Casino Council began on December 1st and continued every day since. The existing labor contract expired on October 16th and negotiations for a new contract began in August. No progress had been made since talks began again in November, the first since October 30th. UAW Local 7777 had previously voted to authorize a strike if an agreement couldn’t be reached by the two sides.