5/2/08

Engineers routed in tribal Casino War battle

For the second time in less than a year, a contingent of workers took to the polls at Foxwoods Resort Casino. But this time the outcome was different. Of the workers from the engineering department who cast ballots Thursday, 215 voted against union representation by the International Union of Operating Engineers, while 67 voted in favor, according to a release issued by Foxwoods Thursday evening.

”I believe in my heart that the people voted with the heads,” said Paul Bychowsky, who has worked as an engineering technician for 14 years at Foxwoods.“This is what it's all about, people coming together and letting their vote be known. Why change something that works?”

A representative from the union could not be reached to comment Thursday evening.

The election results were hailed as a major victory by Foxwoods, which has recently received intense pressure as several unions have filed petitions seeking to unionize workers at the casino.

”We are very pleased with the vote of confidence that employees have given Foxwoods management today,” said Foxwoods President Barry Cregan in the release issued shortly after 7 p.m. “Those team members displayed outstanding professionalism through the entire process and clearly agreed that having an intermediary come between us wasn't necessary.”

The results were announced by the casino just after 7 p.m.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30 filed its petition with the National Labor Relations Board in Hartford on March 7, stating it had the support of a substantial amount of workers in the proposed bargaining unit. The workers in the unit include skilled maintenance workers like electricians, plumbers, painters and HVAC workers within the engineering department.

William Lynn, the lead organizer for the IUOE Local 30, at that time, said workers approached the union because they were unhappy with work atmosphere, benefits and wages.

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns and operates Foxwoods, responded to the petition by questioning whether the NLRB and the National Labor Relations Act, citing its sovereign immunity.

The tribe made similar arguments last year when a union election was held among table game and poker dealers. The dealers voted in favor of representation by the United Auto Workers union, but the tribe contested the results, questioning why ballots were not translated and alleged misconduct by union organizers.

The tribe also raised objections about the NLRB's jurisdiction over the sovereign nation - but that objection was tossed out.

In February of 2007, a federal appeals court ruled that labor laws do apply to the nation's Indian tribes.

An administrative law judge heard seven days of testimony relating to the objections relating to the Nov. 24 election and ruled in March that the election should be certified.

The tribe and its attorneys have pledged to appeal that decision.

Since the IUOE filed its petition, three others have been filed, seeking to unionize workers at Foxwoods.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is seeking to unionize slot technicians in early April. The UAW then filed a petition the following week, seeking to organize the same set of workers.

The UAW then filed another petition shortly thereafter seeking to unionize a group of 40 or so racebook writers and dual-rate racebook writers, employees that work in the off-track betting section of the casino.

NLRB Regional Director Peter B. Hoffman is expected to issue a decision as to whether an election should be held among racebook writers in the coming weeks.

(theday.com)

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