Dealers at the MGM Gold Strike Casino in Tunica County won’t be voting on unionization just yet, due to charges that federal law was broken by MGM Resorts International while campaigning against union representation. The vote by approximately 300 workers was scheduled for Saturday to decide whether or not they would be represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW).
Among Tunica County’s eight casinos, the Gold Strike, which has approximately 1,300 employees, has the largest number of slot machines and hotel rooms, according to the Mississippi Gaming Commission. On Thursday, unfair labor practices were filed by the UAW with the National Labor Relations Board charging that casino managers illegally conducted anti-union meetings using employee tip money; employees were told that if they voted for union representation their pay would be decreased; employees were interrogated to gauge how they would vote; and employees were told that their votes would not be anonymous.
According to the Associated Press, UAW regional director Ray Curry said, “The Gold Strike casino is using heavy-handed tactics in violation of federal law,” and, “We’re asking the National Labor Relations Board to investigate, and we’re calling on MGM to respect its employees’ rights the same way its casinos do in other markets around the country.” The Las Vegas-based MGM denies any wrongdoing and in a statement MGM spokesman Gordon Absher said, “We are disappointed that employees will not be able to exercise their right to vote on Saturday in an election, which the National Labor Relations Board has cancelled as a result of the union’s charge.”
A January 1 letter supporting the unionization drive was sent to workers by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, R-Miss. He wrote that there was a difference in the way dealers at the Gold Strike casino were being treated from other types of workers at the casino as well as other dealers at MGM properties around the country.
Approximately 500 food, front desk and housekeeping workers were organized in June by a group of three unions including, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, UNITE HERE, and International Union of Operating Engineers, when MGM International recognized the unions sans election. UNITE HERE’s gaming organizing director Scott Cooper said the three unions are in contract talks with MGM. Why MGM failed to recognize the UAW along with the other three is unclear.
Most casinos in Mississippi aren’t unionized unlike those in casino centers such as Atlantic City, and Las Vegas. Some workers in Tunica County at Harrah’s Gulf Coast Casino Hotel & Spa in Biloxi, Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino, as well as the Tunica Roadhouse Casino & Hotel are represented by unions.