Mashantuckett casino bartenders, others vote to unionize

Mashantucket, Connecticut (AP) August 2010

Bartenders, beverage servers, and other workers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino voted July 31 in favor of having union representation.

The National Labor Relations Board, which ordered the election, said the result was 190-145.

Brian Petronella, president of Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union called it a victory for the 400 bartenders and other beverage workers who would be represented.

Petronella said that although he expected the casino, which is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, to file objections to the election, “more than likely down the road we will be negotiating a contract with Foxwoods.”

In ordering the election, the NLRB overrode objections by the casino that Mashantucket Pequot labor relations law should apply. Foxwoods said in a statement Saturday that the result would not become official unless the NLRB certifies it after legal objections have been resolved.

“Mashantucket Pequot laws provide a fair process for employees to select union representation and pursue collective bargaining if they so desire,” Jackson King, the tribe’s general counsel, said in the statement. “We continue to believe that tribal law should apply in these matters and will continue to pursue that challenge through all appropriate legal channels.”

Wages, health care, pension benefits, and a grievance process will be among the major issues at the bargaining table, Petronella said.

The NLRB asserted its jurisdiction over tribal businesses in 2004. The board said tribes were covered by the National Labor Relations Act, which bars unfair labor practices and gives workers the rights to organize and bargain with employers.

The union lost an election last year. Petronella blamed rules imposed by the tribe, saying that workers who did not vote were counted as “no” votes.

The United Auto Workers won an election in 2007 to represent nearly 3,000 dealers at Foxwoods. The election was supervised by the NLRB, which rejected the Mashantuckets’ argument that tribal employment law had jurisdiction.

However, Foxwoods and the union agreed to negotiate a contract under the auspices of tribal law.