1,200 Del Lago Casino workers organize with HTC!

NYHTC — February 15, 2017

February 15 – HTC was certified this afternoon as the collective bargaining representative of 1,200 bargaining unit employees at the new del Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes Region. Impartial Arbitrator Elliott Shriftman conducted the union card check which confirmed that the union had been authorized by the large majority of del Lago employees to represent them. 

The del Lago is the second major casino in New York State to be organized by our union. In 2011, HTC organized Resorts World Casino in Queens, using the same card check procedure which our union negotiated with the employer.  

“This was the next step in HTC’s strategy to ensure that workers will have great jobs with high wages, excellent benefits and strong contract protections in each of the handful of casinos that will comprise New York State’s emerging gaming industry,” commented HTC General Counsel, Rich Maroko after the results of the card count were announced.

It was our union’s President, Peter Ward, who had the foresight in 2002 to conceive a comprehensive strategy to ensure that when casinos opened in New York State, the workers would be able to unionize free of any fear or harassment, and that we would have the leverage to guarantee those workers excellent contracts. The union then worked tirelessly during the next 12 years with successive governors of both parties and the state legislature in New York. The result of that work was a powerful “labor peace” law that made it possible for our union to negotiate card check neutrality agreements with the companies seeking to develop casinos in our state. Those agreements meant that the workers could have a union and a contract without a fight. 

The first big casino to open was Resorts World. When it opened non-union, the workers were paid ridiculously low wages, and offered awful benefits. The employer justified the workers’ horrendous conditions on the grounds that there were thousands of applicants willing to do the jobs for poverty wages and that the so-called free market should set their wage and benefit package. However, because the union had negotiated a “first contract arbitration” provision in its card check neutrality agreement, the union had the right to take its case that the Resorts World workers deserved a “living wage” and fair treatment before an impartial arbitrator, Elliott Shriftman. After hearing diametrically-opposing arguments from management and the union, the Arbitrator issued a landmark decision, which was final and binding on the parties. In his decision, the Arbitrator ordered that the wages of the Resorts World workers doubled immediately, and tripled over the four year contract. At a stroke of the Arbitrator’s pen, Resorts World workers rose from poverty into the middle class. The Arbitrator also ordered that the Resorts World casino would have the same peerless package of benefits, job security and guarantees of fair treatment enjoyed by unionized NYC hotel workers. 

The union is using this identical strategy in each of the other casinos set to open around the state within HTC’s jurisdiction, including the Del Lago Resort and Casino in Waterloo, NY and Rivers Casino in Schenectady, NY. 

“I was hesitant to sign a card at first, but then I asked myself, 'What do I have to lose by talking to one of the union organizers?' Once I got the facts and understood what an amazing bargaining position the union has put itself and us in, it was a no-brainer to sign up,” commented R. Sean Dixon-Donahue, Table Games Dealer at Del Lago. “I think this job is going to turn out to be a great career for many of us and I’m very excited to be here at the start, with high seniority!”

The Lead Organizer for this campaign was Assistant Director of Organizing Samantha Coughlin. She had this to say on today’s victory, "The union's certification today will lead to a great union contract and that will mean a better life and security for all these workers and their families. Our team is very proud to be part of that."