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MGM Dealers Now All-in with UNITE HERE after Narrow Union Vote…

UPDATED 6:35PM: For clarity.

MGM Springfield

Now the Dealers are Unite-ing Here. (WMP&I)

A touch under 300 employees at MGM Springfield have voted to join a union in an election the National Labor Relations Board held last week. The results from 247 poker and table game employees out of 282 eligible employees in the bargaining unit considerably expands the number of MGM employees with union representation. The parties have five business days to file objections before the NLRB certifies the results.

The vote to join the New England Joint Board of UNITE HERE was a relatively close 130-117. The Joint Board says it faced unexpectedly stiff opposition from MGM, which may have depressed turnout and stunted support. Still, it is a welcome affirmation for labor especially amid recent negotiations between MGM Springfield and its existing unions.

“We’re very proud to be representing the dealers at MGM Springfield and bringing them into the union family there that we represent,” said Ethan Snow, Secretary-Treasurer of the Boston-based Joint Board.

An unsuccessful vote would have been a setback for labor at the casino. Hundreds of MGM Springfield employees already enjoy union representation. These are overwhelmingly employees on the hospitality and food service side of the facility.

The Joint Board, via its constituent Local 301, and Teamsters, Local 404 organized employees over five years ago.  The two labor organizations secured their first contract in 2019 and have been bargaining this year on their next. At the time, it covered about 700 employees. The Joint Board’s share of the existing union workforce includes servers, bartenders, housekeepers and other hospitality employees.

The Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation, the state AFL-CIO’s branch in the Valley, welcomed the dealers’ vote.

“We congratulate the workers on voting to join UniteHere!” WMALF president Jeff Jones said in an email. “It increases the union density at MGM and in Springfield as a whole.”

Neither MGM Springfield nor its parent company responded to a request for comment as of posting time.


The federal agency overseeing labor organizing announced the vote Monday. (via wikipedia)

Beyond the final tally, there were an additional 9 challenged votes. However, they would not have changed the outcome of the election. Prior to the poll, which occurred this past Friday and Saturday, the NLRB had announced that dealer trainees could vote, yet their votes were automatically subject to challenge. This was because there was no agreement on whether trainees will be in the bargaining unit.

An NLRB spokesperson did not say whether all nine challenged ballots were those of dealer trainees.

The NLRB will now certify the Joint Board as the exclusive bargaining agent for poker and table game employees—or simply “dealers” in the Joint Board’s parlance—pending any legal challenges. However, the “for” vote was less than the 282 employees the NLRB identified as part of the bargaining unit.

MGM has faced criticism for never meeting hiring goals at its facility, which straddles the downtown and South End neighborhoods. Even before COVID-19, it employed fewer than promised. Growth in jobs since the worst of the pandemic has been slow. Still, issues with organized labor have not stood out as a problem there.

While few employers invite unions in, MGM Resorts International, MGM Springfield’s parent company, operates several unionized workplaces. Indeed, most of its properties on the Las Vegas Strip have unions, including locals of UNITE HERE. Moreover, in the early days of MGM Springfield, it took steps to project interest in labor peace. During the campaign to approve the casino, supporters of the facility had touted the potential for good union jobs.

Snow said that the Joint Board faced an unusual amount of pushback from MGM.

Culinary Workers Marty Walsh

Former Labor Secretary & Boston Mayor Marty Walsh at the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas. A UNITE HERE local, it represents many of MGM’s Nevada employees and the company’s pushback surprised the Joint Board. (via wikipedia)

“We faced an all-out anti-union campaign from the employer. When this thing happens, a lot of people are discouraged from voting,” Snow said. “Despite the company’s anti-union push, which was surprising to us, we won and we were very proud of that.”

The Joint Board received reports of employees in one-on-one meetings with managers to discourage supporting the union. Others received veiled threats to their benefits. Snow said the latter was easy to knock down because coworkers who already have union representation could disprove the claims.

The Joint Board filed an unfair labor practice claim against MGM Springfield on February  27 consistent with these claims. An individual also filed an unfair labor practice against MGM on March 8. It was not immediately clear from the filings whether these pertained to the election.

Assuming there are no other legal holdups, the Joint Board and Local 301’s next move would be to begin organizing dealers into a union shop. That will include identifying stewards, appointing a negotiating committee and speaking with members about priorities in negotiations.

Among the matters that could be priorities are the same that motivated the union drive, Snow said. These echo those at other workplaces including wages, working conditions,  and terms of employment, but also a voice in the workplace.

“It really comes down to an issue of democracy. An issue of having a voice at the job. That was very clear in this campaign with the dealers as well,” he said.