6/3/08

Casino War: UAW withdraws from Foxwoods

Related story: "Foxwoods workers reject UAW"

Organizers raise white flag of surrender

The United Auto Workers union on Monday withdrew its petition to organize workers at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The action came just hours before a hearing was scheduled before the National Labor Relations Board to discuss the matter. The UAW submitted a one-sentence letter to the NLRB Monday stating its desire to withdraw the petition to organize slot technicians, said John Cotter, assistant regional director for the NLRB in Hartford.

A spokeswoman for the UAW said Monday that no one from the union would be commenting on the decision to withdraw the petition to organize between 80 and 120 workers at both Foxwoods and MGM Grand at Foxwoods.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns and operates the casino, also did not comment on the UAW's decision.

The withdrawal signals a slowing in the momentum that labor unions appeared to have been gaining at Foxwoods ever since the UAW won the right to represent nearly 3,000 poker and table-game dealers in November.

While four petitions have been filed this year by unions seeking to organize workers, two union elections were held in May. In both, workers voted against union representation, marking a tough month for organized labor.

The latest election, which was held on Friday, involved the UAW. Out of 40 workers in the off-track betting section of the casino, 23 voted against union representation and 13 voted in favor.

And while the UAW offered no explanation as to why it dropped the petition, Friday's election may have had some impact on its decision, said Daniel Schwartz, a labor and employment lawyer in Hartford.

”It's difficult to draw a pattern yet for what's happening, but the fact is you've got two defeats in the last month, and that's probably a bit disconcerting to them,” said Schwartz, a partner with the firm Pullman & Comley, LLP.

Because the UAW pulled its petition before the hearing Monday, it can file another petition at a later date, Cotter said.

”I wouldn't expect them to file shortly,” he said. “That's it for now.”

The UAW has a two-year window of exclusivity among American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations affiliated unions, thanks to the ruling of an AFL-CIO arbiter which was issued at the beginning of May.

The UAW and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers both filed petitions in April seeking to unionize slot technicians at Foxwoods, but because both are AFL-CIO affiliated unions, the matter went to the arbiter, who decided that the UAW should be given the sole right to try to organize workers for a two-year period.

In his decision, the arbiter also acknowledged that the UAW may face difficulties in organizing this particular unit because workers thought they would be included in the UAW's petition when it sought to organize the dealers. They were not. Workers then sought out the IBEW for representation.

In his decision, the arbiter stated: “The UAW has work to do in restoring support among the slot technicians.”

It is unclear whether the union withdrew the petition so that it could repair its relationship with workers, but Schwartz said the UAW would not have pulled back if a win was a possibility.

”Unions don't file petitions unless they can win, “ Schwartz said. “It's that simple.”

(theday.com)

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