1/18/08

Tribe protests Casino War election violations

Several Foxwoods Resort Casino table-game dealers said Wednesday on day two of a regional National Labor Relations Board hearing that they did not fully grasp the concept of a union or understand the ballot that was used in the Nov. 24 unionization vote.

All three dealers who testified at the hearing speak Chinese and testified with the help of an interpreter.

Table-game dealers voted 1,289 to 852 in favor of union representation by the United Auto Workers in the November election. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which owns and operates Foxwoods, challenged the results, citing a dozen objections, two of which were thrown out before the hearing.

The tribe, among other objections, is questioning why the ballots were not printed in multiple languages and why an election notice was only printed in one Chinese dialect. It also contends that UAW representatives harassed and intimidated eligible voters before the election.

At issue is whether the election and its results are valid. An administrative law judge will determine that issue and could order a new election.

All documents provided to employees at Foxwoods are written in English, according to information presented Wednesday, but the dealers testified that if they do not understand something, they can ask for interpreting help.

The three dealers who testified Wednesday said they have a simple understanding of English terms that pertain to gaming. Dealer Lin Shuzhen testified that she wanted to reveal her opinion about the election.

“I don't like to have a union,” she said through an interpreter.

But when she was asked how she voted or if she understood the ballot, Shuzhen said she guessed.

UAW attorney Tom Meiklejohn asked her if she knows what “yes” means.

Shuzhen replied: “Yes means yes.” Which brought laughter from the room, as that is the phrase that the union has placed on t-shirts and buttons that have been worn by supporters in the hearing the past two days.

Ya Qiong Zeng, who has been a dealer since June, also expressed confusion over the election ballot. She said she was opposed to the union for fear of paying union dues, which she had been told about by other employees.

She was asked if she knew what a “no” vote meant.

“I don't know, I thought that if vote yes then that means I represent Foxwoods,” she said through an interpreter.

At one point, after the third dealer testified, the judge presiding over the hearing, Raymond P. Green said a lot of the confusion could have been avoided if the ballots were printed in multiple languages.

“If it was me, I would have translated the ballot,” Green said, but added that more evidence is needed to overturn the election.

Attorneys representing the tribe are trying to establish that Chinese-speaking employees found it difficult to understand both the ballot, which was provided only in English, and the election notice, which was provided in only one Chinese dialect.

More than 700 dealers at Foxwoods identify themselves as Asian or Pacific Islander. The tribe's attorneys are trying to prove that a new election should be held because of what it says was widespread confusion relating to the ballots and election notices.

Richard Hankins, an attorney who represents the tribe, told reporters during a break on Wednesday that the hearing comes down to a “fairness issue” and that the “tribal nation makes great efforts to communicate different languages” even though all documents are printed in English, not an employee's native tongue. But, he said, the tribe is reviewing that issue and could change that policy.

Hankins said another election should be held, one “that is fair”.

“Someone has to stand up for them,” he said. “Clearly the labor board isn't. Clearly the union isn't.”

But, Jacqueline Little, a poker dealer for 15 years at Foxwoods, said that before the election she never heard or saw anything presented in another election.

“I have never seen (Foxwoods) reach out to other ethnic groups, never seen them single out dealers,” said Little, who also worked as an organizer for the union.

Also Wednesday, the national NLRB in Washington, D.C., denied the tribe's appeal on the two objections, pertaining to jurisdiction and sovereign immunity, that were thrown out by the regional board. In its denial, the board said the request “raises no substantial issues warranting review”.

The tribe was disappointed in the ruling, according to spokesman Bruce MacDonald, and will consider its options on how to proceed.

The UAW hailed the decision as a major victory and Bob Madore, director of UAW Region 9A, said the union will succeed.

“We feel confident, we feel elated,” he said. “People should be resigned to the fact that there will be a union.”

(theday.com)

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