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Briefings: MGM Poker & Table Game Employees to Vote on Dealing in a Union…

UPDATE 3/11/24 2:20PM: The NLRB released a vote tally showing MGM employees voted to join the Joint Board. Full story to come.

MGM Springfield

Labor moving toward the gaming floor at MGM? (WMP&I)

Table game and poker dealers at MGM Springfield are about to play a very different hand this weekend. About 277 workers at the Springfield casino can vote over the weekend on whether to organize under the New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE. If successful, it would appear to mark a significant expansion of union reach at MGM.

A modicum of labor peace has prevailed over MGM Springfield since its inception. While federal law prevented the state from insisting on MGM recognizing a union, state officials generally favored that outcome as part of the push to legalizing gambling. Indeed, hospitality employees at MGM already have representation from UNITE-HERE.

The Joint Board, the umbrella organization for UNITE HERE locals in New England, filed for a recognition petition last month. Filings with the National Labor Relations Board show the election will occur this Friday and Saturday.

An NLRB spokesperson said results should be available by Monday.

A spokesperson for MGM did not return a request for comment as of posting time. Multiple attempts to reach the Boston-based Joint Board for comment were unsuccessful. UNITE HERE has its roots in multiple industries and other well-known labor organizations.

The NLRB published the notice of election on Monday. Nearly all private-sector workplaces fall under federal labor law. Under the New Deal-era National Labor Relations Act, workers can organize under a union in two ways. After signing cards, their employer can voluntarily recognize them. Alternatively, an election via secret ballot can occur.

The docket for this petition suggests that the Joint Board and MGM stipulated election terms.

The relative speed for an election to occur is a function of recent policy changes at the NLRB. At various points in the agency’s history, elections could become drawn out affairs which gave employers time to discourage an affirmative vote. Employers can oppose union recognition, but they cannot legally intimidate.


The iconic Bellagio Hotel & Resort is among those MGM properties where UNITE-HERE has a presence. However other unions tend to represent dealers in on the Strip. UNITE-HERE does represents dealers in Detroit. (via wikipedia)

MGM has not shown any specific antipathy to unionization at its Springfield casino. Indeed, its parent company, MGM Resorts International, owns several unionized casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. Despite being a right-to-work state—that is, employees in a bargaining unit can enjoy union benefits without paying union dues—Nevada is a labor powerhouse, in part due to the Culinary Workers Union. Formally Local 226, it is also a unit of UNITE HERE.

In 2019, the Joint Board and Teamsters, Local 404 reached an agreement with MGM Springfield covering some 700 workers. Together, the Joint Board and Local 404 are part of the Workers Gaming Association at MGM. The pact was to last four years. COVID-19 certainly had an impact on MGM Springfield, which closed for a time early in the pandemic.

Brian Donovan, president of Local 404, told WMP&I that the 2019 pact had an end date of January 15, 2024. However, the parties extended it until March 15 to continue bargaining.

According to a release at the time, the Joint Board has jurisdiction over servers, bartenders, housekeepers and other hospitality employees. The Teamsters represented warehouse, valet and front desk workers. The Teamsters also represent bellmen.

Needless to say, an affirmative vote among the table game and poker dealers would expand the Joint Board’s footprint at MGM.

The full stipulated election agreement between the Joint Board and MGM was not immediately available. However, the eligible voters for the election are “full-time and regular part-time table games dealer, poker games dealers and poker attendants.”

Trainee dealers can vote. However, a dispute remains as to whether they should be included or excluded from the proposed bargaining unit. A resolution to that dispute will determine whether the NLRB will count those votes, assuming they are dispositive of the result.

By contrast, “slot attendants, cage workers, security officers, clerical employees, professional employees, managers, and guards, and supervisors,” as defined by the NLRA, cannot vote.

According to the election notice, only employees on the payroll as of the pay period ending February 18 can vote. The NLRB estimates the bargaining unit to be about 277 employees as of the election filing.