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3,700 casino workers go on strike against Detroit's three casinos

casino strike
Briana Rice
Michigan Radio
Unions representing 3,700 workers at Detroit's three casinos on the picket line on 10-17-23.

Update: October 17, 2023, 2:20 p.m.

Union members walked off the job at MGM Grand Detroit Casino, Hollywood Casino of Greektown, and Motor City Casino, after a noon deadline passed without a tentative agreement with the management of each company.

Hollywood Casino of Greektown said it would remain open during the strike, which involves 3,700 employees in five separate unions.

In a statement issued hours before the strike, MGM Grand Detroit indicated it would encourage union members to continue working, and take other steps to keep the casino and hotel open.

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

MGM Grand Detroit also told union members they have the right to continue working without harassment if they choose to cross the picket line.

Original post:

Unions that represent 3,700 casino workers in Detroit said Monday evening they remain far apart on a number of issues, and if a deal is not reached by noon Tuesday, they'll strike Motor City Casino, Hollywood Casino at Greektown, and MGM Grand Detroit.

The five unions represent food and beverage, housekeeping, retail, slots and table games, engineering, and other positions at the casinos. Contracts expire Monday night at 11:59 p.m.

Union leaders estimated the city of Detroit would lose about $452,000 per day in tax revenue if the casinos close. City officials said they could not immediately confirm the number.

Nia Winston is President of Unite Here Local 24, one of the unions involved in negotiations. She said a walkout would shut down the casinos and the hotels.

"I'll tell you these workers have been through a lot since the pandemic," she said. "They're fed up with the employers' proposal and them not taking us seriously, and so there has been no extension talks as of now."

Winston said the casinos want a concession — for employees to pay more for their health insurance. That's something members fiercely oppose.

Union demands include wage increases to keep up with inflation, increases in 401(k) contributions, and lower workloads.

"It's like 1,500 less workers working in the casinos since the pandemic, so many of our membership, they're doing the jobs of 2 or 3 people," Winston said.

Another issue is the increasing use of technology in hotels and casinos to replace workers, such as automated check-ins at hotels, and bartending machines that can mix drinks. Winston said the unions want to be part of any discussions with management over whether those technologies are adopted in Detroit casinos.

A Motor City Casino spokesperson said the business will remain open if there's a strike.

"While significant progress has been made, we have not yet reached an agreement with the Detroit Casino Council," the spokesperson said in a statement. "We remain committed to bargaining in good faith and achieving a contract that is fair to our employees and allows our company to remain competitive in our industry. As we work to resolve the open issues, we will remain open to serve our guests."

A spokesperson for PENN Entertainment, which owns Hollywood Casino at Greektown issued this statement:

“Hollywood Casino at Greektown has had a productive and respectful relationship with the Detroit Casino Council for many years. We are committed to continue working constructively to develop a mutually beneficial agreement that positively positions our team members and business for success well into the future.”

On Friday, MGM Grand Detroit said it is committed to its employees in Detroit and continues to negotiate with the unions.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.
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