Detroit Casino Workers Go On Strike, Operations Disrupted

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Detroit’s casinos have been forced to shut down some services this week, as 3,700 workers from the three major Michigan casino venues — MGM Grand, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown — went on strike.

The decision came after negotiations for new contracts failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion and Detroit Casino Council union members voted overwhelmingly for strike action.

MotorCity Casino has closed some of its slot floor, high-limit table games, and its poker room. Michigan retail sportsbooks in the casino venues have also seen disruption, with the FanDuel sportsbook at MotorCity currently shuttered without staff.

MGM Grand Detroit has closed its valet service and several bars and restaurants, while Hollywood Casino at Greektown is also seeing reduced hospitality service.

“We are disappointed by the decision of the Detroit Casino Council, as we have made generous, progressive settlement offers that position our team members and business for sustainable success,” said Hollywood Casino.

Contract Improvement Demands

The Detroit Casino Council, representing the workers, has been vocal about their demands.

“The workers are seeking contract improvements after years of pandemic hardship — including wages that keep up with inflation, health care, retirement security, technology language, fair workloads for housekeepers, and more,” union officials wrote in a press release Tuesday.

“But casino management has been unwilling to deliver a fair contract for workers.”

Delphine Jones, a busser/server at MGM Grand Detroit for 17 years, says there is an overdue need for pay raises. She was among the many who took to the streets, holding signs like, “Detroit Casino Workers Need a Raise” and “Don’t Gamble with our Future.” The picketers chanted slogans such as “No contract. No peace.” and “If we don’t get it, shut it down.”

MGM Grand Detroit executives were also staunch in their position. Matt Buckley, president and COO of MGM’s Midwest Group, spoke to local media on Tuesday.

“We intend to continue to operate our business during any potential strike and will remain open this week and beyond,” he said.

“We will continue to offer employees work, and to the extent employees represented by the union choose to participate in the strike, we will take whatever lawful action is necessary to fill shifts and continue providing our customers with entertainment and service.”

Workers Feel Disrespected

The strike has brought to light the personal stories and struggles of the workers. Workers have emphasized the sacrifices made during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the physical toll the job takes on them.

One MGM Grand Detroit employee, Jamil Johnson, feels unvalued after working with MGM for 16 years.

“I feel disrespected,” said Johnson, 52, speaking to local media outlet The Detroit News.

“And that’s how a lot of my coworkers feel, because we really did sacrifice a lot. During shift change, you see a lot of workers walking out limping. This is hard work.”

The three Detroit casinos have this year been jointly making around a $100 million per month in revenues. Michigan online casinos do even better than that. For example, in July, which saw them pull in $150 million.

The view that casino worker’s contracts have not seen adequate benefits from the revenues of the booming U.S. gambling sector is echoed by casino workers in Las Vegas. Currently, thousands of workers are picketing outside famous Nevada casino venues on the Las Vegas Strip as a warning ahead of a potential mass walkout of some 60,000 Culinary Union workers in Sin City and wider Nevada.

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