Hotel Online  Special Report



Tribal Council Chairman Richard Milanovich Issues Statment
on the Flawed Union Events of April 8 at Agua Caliente Casino
and Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs
Time for the Facts After Meaningless Protest by the H.E.R.E. Union
PALM SPRINGS, Calif - April 9, 2004 -- Yesterday, Las Vegas-based Culinary Local 226, aided by front organizations for the labor union H.E.R.E., staged a meaningless protest aimed at adversely impacting the benefits received by workers at Agua Caliente Casino and Spa Resort Casino. This protest, which included the staged and planned arrest of 20 Union employees, was a senseless attempt by the H.E.R.E. union, through out-of-towners, to limit the rights of employees working at our two casinos by publishing false accusations against the Tribe. The Tribe is not only one of the largest employers in the Coachella Valley; it also has a rich history of taking care of its employees, who are our Team Members. The union H.E.R.E. has been seeking to interfere with our strong and productive relationship with our Team Members. However, we are committed to protect that relationship for the benefit of our Team Members.

It is time for the facts. And whereas the union has to date provided only lies, we will clearly and plainly state our factual response to the H.E.R.E.'s inaccurate and misleading statements.

"Workers are struggling for a fair process to unionize. We want the freedom to organize without fear."

In 1999, an unprecedented process occurred when the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (ACBCI), the California Federation of Labor, which represented H.E.R.E., through the good offices of Senate Pro Tem John Burton, negotiated the groundbreaking Tribal Labor Relations Ordinance (TLRO). The TLRO was required by then-Governor Davis as a prerequisite to compact approval. The TLRO was an unprecedented agreement that allowed labor to organize certain employees of Tribal Gaming Facilities, if the union followed certain simple procedures. The fact is, to this very day, H.E.R.E. has never attempted, and has never sought to organize our Team Members at our two casinos under the terms they negotiated in the TLRO. To organize, all the team members at either of our two casinos need to do is designate any union of their choosing by a 51 percent vote. The union knows this; after all, they negotiated the ordinance. Yet, they refuse to follow the ordinance. Why? I suspect it's because they know that our Team Members understand that the union would take away from each paycheck dues without providing a benefits package close to that which they already enjoy.

Two primary points of the TLRO are: 1) the freedom of speech, whereby all sides have the right to present information regarding unionization, and 2) the right to vote in a secret ballot election. Freedom of speech and the right to a secret ballot election are two fundamental rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and we will not bend in our staunch protection of our Team Members to enjoy these fundamental rights, rights included in the TLRO, which the union now wants to take away from our Team Members. That is wrong and offensive, and we will vigorously defend our Team Members against such unfair and prejudicial action.

The fact is, the union helped write the TLRO, and now seeks to ignore the fundamental employee protections set forth in the TLRO.

"Workers are struggling for a living wage, and the ACBCI does not meet California minimum wage levels."

That is simply untrue. The fact is, ACBCI currently meets and often exceeds California's minimum wage law, both for hourly employees and for employees in tipped positions, and exceeds the union-negotiated pay rate at Nevada casinos and California businesses.

"Workers are struggling for affordable healthcare for their families."

We provide an extremely competitive benefits package, including one of the most aggressive health care plans. In fact, we provide all coverage, including medical, vision, dental and prescription, at no cost to each Team Member, with options to add a spouse, child or an entire family at a very competitive rate. The fact is, the national average insurance cost for an employee is $208/month. We provide coverage to Team Members at no cost.

"ACBCI does not provide workers comp benefits."

Wrong, again. Upon entering employment, every Team Member receives an employee handbook that clearly outlines all of the benefits we provide, including a no-cost workers comp program, unemployment insurance, 401(k), and military leave with full payment. In addition, we provide our Team Members with: tuition reimbursement, counseling services, disability insurance, medical leave, FMLA, health insurance, and C.O.B.R.A benefits.

"Workers are struggling for protections against discrimination and sexual harassment ... The laws don't apply to us, and we need help!"

That is simply not true, not factual, a lie. We do fully comply with employment laws. Beyond that, we have policies and procedures in place, which prohibit discrimination and harassment that are on par with federal laws and in most cases exceed California laws. We have also established an independent, third-party arbitration board, should a team member not be satisfied with an employment decision. Additionally, our autonomous Gaming Commission regulations mandate that all claims of discrimination and sexual harassment must be immediately reported to the Director of Human Resources, the Central Human Resources Executive Director and the General Manager. We also require all supervisors to attend monthly four-hour human resource training sessions. In other words, all supervisors receive more than 40 hours of training each year, a standard virtually without rival in the industry.

Yesterday, union organizers brought in by bus Las Vegas union members in an attempt to deny Team Members at Agua Caliente Casino and Spa Resort Casino two of the most basic, fundamental rights U.S. citizens enjoy: The right of free speech and the right to vote. They would attempt to have us believe that less speech is better; that only one side should be allowed to voice an opinion, and that the best way to hold an election is to harass someone face-to-face to coerce the signing of the card. This flies in the face of everything the United States is built upon, and we will vigorously defend our Team Members' fundamental and democratic rights to
enjoy these fundamental, basic liberties.

This is not about being anti-union. This is not about Tribal Sovereignty. This is about truth. This is about fairness. This is about protecting workers from union coercion and lies and protecting basic human rights and fundamental liberties. Our Team Members and their rights and protections are important to us, and we stand by them to protect and preserve the basic rights of free speech and free elections, which even the unions agreed to in 1999 in the TLRO.

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
Bob Hester, 760-779-8592

Also See: Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Targeting California Indian Casinos / May 2003
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Commences Contruction of $90 million New Spa Resort Casino, in Palm Springs, California / Dec 2002

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