Teamsters routed at Soaring Eagle

The housekeeping staff at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort Friday soundly rejected membership in the Teamsters union, but the battle to unionize casino employees is far from over.

The vote against unionization was 192 no, 88 yes, better than a 2 to 1 margin. "They waxed us pretty good," said Ed Morin, business agent for Teamsters Local 486. "We"re not walking away from it." Nearly all the members of the full- and part-time housekeeping staff who were eligible to vote cast ballots.

The Teamsters have been attempting to organize casino workers for more than a year. Friday"s vote, run by the National Labor Relations Board, was the first time workers at the casino and hotel run by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe have voted on representation.

"Our employees trust in the leadership to do a good job," Tribal Council member Michele Stanley said. "I went to a lot of meetings with the employees and listened."

Stanley said those employee meetings turned up issues that the management of the huge casino and hotel complex have to address. "Now, we know what the problems are," Stanley said, "and we can deal with them."

Morin said the Teamsters felt that workers in the housekeeping department and other areas had been put under pressure to vote against the union.

"Certainly, we feel there was a lot of fear of retaliation on the part of the employees," Morin said.

Stanley denied that workers had been put under pressure, although management at the Tribal casino had urged them to vote no.

"We didn"t do any more than give them the facts," Stanley said. "There was no pressure."

The soonest another organizing vote can take place will be one year, Morin said.

"We"ll see if they live up to their word," the Teamsters organizer said. "We"ll be back in a year."

The vote at the Soaring Eagle is in sharp contrast to a vote earlier this year at the Tribal-run Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut, where dealers overwhelmingly voted to unionize. Organized labor has been trying to gain footholds in Native-run casinos since a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that said workers could be represented by unions under some circumstances.

The Saginaw Chippewas have adopted a Tribal labor ordinance that essentially outlaws union activity on Tribal lands. Morin said he"s filed an unfair labor practice charge over the ordinance and expects to keep challenging it.

He said the Teamsters will not go away, and will continue to try to organize other employee groups.

"We"ll be around to talk to the other people," Morin said.

Meanwhile, a hearing is set for today to determine if there is enough support among members of the security and surveillance staff to ask for a vote on joining the International Union of Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America.


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