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Card Dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino Approve First Labor Contract
Becoming the Largest Group of Dealers Under a Union Contract in the U.S.

By Eric Gershon and Hilda Munoz, The Hartford Courant, Conn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jan. 30, 2010--MASHANTUCKET -- Card dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Friday approved their first labor contract with the nation's largest casino, becoming what is believed to be the largest group of union-represented card dealers in the country.

In balloting at the casino, dealers voted 1,053 to 355 in favor of the two-year deal, which provides a 12 percent wage increase over two years, extended medical leave time, seniority-based job protections and other benefits.

The United Auto Workers union was still counting ballots late Friday night after card dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino voted on whether to ratify a historic labor agreement with the nation's largest casino.

Balloting took place at the casino for 12 hours, ending at 9 p.m. There was no public sign of an organized movement in opposition to the deal, which provides a 12 percent wage increase over two years, extended medical leave time, seniority-based job protections and other benefits.

Balloting took place at the casino for 12 hours, ending at 9 p.m. Just over 1,400 of the 2,500 dealers at Foxwoods and MGM Grand voted. A source said the turnout was steady during the day and heavier as a shift ended at 8 p.m.

Negotiated under Mashantucket Pequot Tribal law rather than U.S. federal law, the contract takes effect immediately and expires Dec. 31, 2011. Tribal law does not give workers the right to strike.

The 2,500 workers would become the largest group of dealers under a union contract at any U.S. casino. The contract was negotiated under Mashantucket Pequot Tribal law rather than U.S. federal law. Tribal law does not give workers the right to strike.

The Pequots own Foxwoods and have been struggling to renegotiate billions of dollars in debt, much of it taken on in a major 2007-08 expansion, just as the economy has depressed gambling revenues.

The deal would establish the first major labor contract for any group of Foxwoods workers and could inspire other groups of workers at Foxwoods and other Native American-owned casinos to organize collective bargaining units. None of Mohegan Sun's Connecticut workers are represented by unions.

"We worked hard to get dealers a fair contract," said Yan Mei Shi, a dealer for 6 1/2 years. "Dealers deserve job stability and fair treatment on the job, and this agreement is a great advancement."

The dealers formed a union through the United Auto Workers in November 2007 and had been fighting for a contract since then. In late 2008 the Pequots agreed to negotiate under tribal law.

"We are pleased to have these negotiations behind us so that we can continue to focus on creating an outstanding customer experience," said Michael Speller, president of the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise.

Friday's vote followed the announcement of a tentative agreement between the tribe and the UAW announced Tuesday. Balloting began at 9 a.m. at the casino and closed at 9 p.m.

The contract is the culmination of years of effort by at least two labor unions. In 1998, Local 217 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union took the first public steps toward organizing Foxwoods workers when it erected billboards near the casino asking employees concerned about working conditions to call a toll-free number.

The contract also codifies the dealers' right to control distribution of their tips and establishes a 24-table smoke-free gambling pit.

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To see more of The Hartford Courant, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.courant.com/.

Copyright (c) 2010, The Hartford Courant, Conn.

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