Striking Detroit Casino Workers Take Battle Online

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Striking workers at the three Michigan casinos in Detroit have come up with a new tactic in their nearly month-long dispute with the casino operators.

Some 3,600 unionized workers are now coming up to a month of being on strike after initiating labor action on October 17.

In their bid to put even more pressure on casino owners, a coalition of unions known as the Detroit Casino Council has called for a public boycott of Michigan online casinos and sportsbooks owned by the Detroit casino operators.

The strike involves workers at MGM Grand, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown. The Casino Council has encouraged supportive members of the public to avoid the four’s related online operations in solidarity.

Each has Michigan retail sportsbooks, as located at the aforementioned casinos. FanDuel online sportsbook, with a retail branch at MotorCity Casino, Penn Entertainment’s Hollywood Casino, and recently launched ESPN Bet, and BetMGM have all been called out by the unions.  

The Strike’s Core Issues

The striking workers say they agreed to several concessions to aid the casinos during the economic downturns after the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, with the U.S casino sector now back with a bang, workers say they haven’t seen enough of the benefits passed on.

They now seek better health care, job security, retirement benefits, and fair compensation. The pandemic saw casinos cutting staff, increasing the workload for the remaining employees. The unions propose eliminating health care premiums and increasing wages significantly, countering the casino operators’ initial offers of reduced health care premiums and more modest wage increase.

Digital Picket Lines: The Online Boycott

In an innovative move, the Detroit Casino Council, representing these workers, has extended the strike to the digital domain.

This boycott targets the significant online revenue streams of these casinos, while their physical venues are seriously disrupted by the strikes.

The Council has launched a digital ad campaign urging bettors to use other operators’ options until the strike concludes. The boycott doesn’t include Michigan online sports betting platforms like Caesars Sportsbook or DraftKings, who aren’t involved in the strike.

Broader Implications and Support

This strike in Detroit is part of a larger trend of increasing labor activism across various sectors in the U.S. The Detroit Casino Council’s actions, mirrored by labor movements in other industries, shows a growing trend of worker empowerment.

The Council has also garnered support from the Detroit City Council, highlighting the local government’s approval of their efforts.

“Online sports betting and online casino platforms like FanDuel, ESPN BET, and BetMGM are critical sources of revenue for the companies that operate Detroit’s three casinos,” said Nia Winston, president of UNITE HERE Local 24, in a statement.

“Workers have been outside the physical locations 24/7 since going out on strike three weeks ago to win a fair contract. Now, they’re calling on the public not to cross their virtual picket line either, and to boycott these apps until the strike is settled.”

Some striking workers from Detroit have also taken the trip to Las Vegas to support a similar labor movement at the famous Nevada casinos of the Las Vegas Strip.

However, last week that strike — far larger than the ongoing action in Detroit — ended with last-minute contract agreements.

More than 50,000 Las Vegas casino and hospitality workers were preparing for a full strike on November 10. But first Caesars Entertainment, then followed by MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts, made historic contract agreements with workers, and a full walkout was avoided.

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