As promised, here’s an update on the workers’ campaign to organize a union at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, IL. (For background, click here to read my post from last November).
On December 18, I was part of a clergy delegation that met with workers then visited Rivers Casino to demand a meeting with General Manager Bill Keena. The head of security arrived almost immediately and told us to leave the premises. After some back and forth, we finally were granted a meeting with him two days later.
We returned on December 20 and met with Mr. Keena and told management to immediately halt its illegal intimidation campaign against the organizing workers. We also asked to meet with Neil Bluhm, Chairman of Midwest Gaming, the company that owns Rivers Casino.
Mr. Keena and casino’s Head Counsel did not respond to us other than to refuse to accept a letter of support for the workers signed by numerous members of the Chicagoland clergy community. A week later, we received a response from Mr. Keena stating that “After further consideration, we have decided that no further meetings between our two organizations are necessary.”
Since the meeting, the Rivers Casino management has resumed its illegal anti-union campaign, having security personnel escort members of the organizing committee from the dining room, where they were having conversations with their coworkers about the union. Several members of the organizing committee have been disciplined by the casino after talking to their coworkers in the dining room. These actions prompted 25 additional unfair labor practice charges against the casino, bringing the total number of pending charges to 55.
Neil Bluhm and his management have clearly opted for a heavy handed, draconian response to the workers’ reasonable – and legal – efforts to organize themselves into a union. As those of us who were involved in the long and painfully drawn Hyatt boycott struggle would surely attest: it shouldn’t have to be this way.
In the meantime, the number of workers signing on to support unionization at Rivers is increasing – and the clergy are continuing to organize as well. This story has yet to be written – stay tuned.