|By Patricia Daddona, The Day, New London,
Conn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 29, 2010--NORWICH -- As table-games dealers vote today on a potentially historic union contract, some MGM Grand at Foxwoods dealers plan to urge their colleagues to reject the agreement.
On Tuesday, the UAW at Foxwoods, Local 2121, reached a tentative agreement on a first-ever contract with the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, which owns both the Foxwoods Resort Casino and the MGM Grand at Foxwoods. Voting at Foxwoods runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today.
The majority of the dealers, some 2,200, work at Foxwoods, while about 360 work at MGM Grand.
When news of the tentative contract broke, a Foxwood dealer representing the union called its possible approval a "win-win" for employees that preserves benefits, adds job security and will improve dealers' jobs in a variety of ways. If authorized, the pact would be the first contract in the country negotiated under tribal law.
But on Thursday, a handful of MGM Grand dealers met privately with Foxwoods dealers representing the union at union headquarters to learn about the implications the contract would have for them, and one said she would be informing others of what she learned and urging them to oppose the pact today.
Kim Kenyon, a "casual" dealer for 1½ years with MGM Grand, said Thursday she and her colleagues were dissatisfied with some of the key tenets of the deal, and planned to circulate fliers today urging a "no-vote." Casual dealers are part-timers who have no benefits, she said. MGM Grand dealers' chief concern, Kenyon said, is the pooling of all tokes, or tips, for dealers at both casinos, which would result in an average pay increase of a little more than $1 an hour for Foxwoods dealers, but a decrease of between $5 and $7 an hour for MGM Grand dealers.
MGM Grand dealers average between $16 and $25 in tokes, on top of base pay, while Foxwoods dealers average about $14 an hour in tokes, she said.
According to union sources, the contract negotiations had entered an arbitration phase in August over management's refusal to recognize the UAW as the bargaining representative for dealers at MGM Grand.
Kenyon said MGM Grand dealers also are not happy that seniority would be in full force across both casinos, and believe the promised 4 percent to 6 percent promotions are too low.
If the contract is voted down, the parties end up back in litigation, but if the contract is approved, MGM Grand dealers have to live with the terms of the contract for six months, until provisions can be renegotiated, she said.
Noting that the complications are "not necessarily" the fault of the Foxwoods dealers, Kenyon said, "Management has kept us in the dark, whether by choice or not, I don't know. Everything was worked out without our knowledge, without our say. ... MGM management did not want MGM dealers to be included in negotiations."
George Taylor, a Foxwoods dealer for more than 15 years, said that all tokes had always been pooled at Foxwoods until MGM Grand opened, and then MGM Grand dealers were allowed to pool their tokes separately from the Foxwoods dealers. "When MGM Grand opened, we suffered $1 plus an hour loss in tokes," he said. "We contend from Day 1 we are one unit, we are all dealers working for (the Mashantucket Pequot tribe).
The tribe could not be reached for comment.
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