Bartenders elect new union at Foxwoods

 

 

By Patricia Daddona

Publication: The Day

 
UFCW second at casino after 190-145 decision by workers

 

Mashantucket - Bartenders, bar porters and bar servers voted in favor of a new union under federal law at Foxwoods Resort Casino Saturday.

The unofficial tally was 190 to 145.

The results won't be official until they are certified by the National Labor Relations Board, and any challenges by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the owner of Foxwoods, are resolved.

A total of 391 workers were eligible to vote in the secret-ballot election for Local 371 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. The UFCW joins the UAW for table games dealers as the second union to be recognized under federal law. The UAW formed in 2007 under federal law but ultimately voted to organize under the Mashantucket Pequot tribe's labor laws.

Brian Petronella, president of Local 371, said now that the bartenders have voted for a union, the group would organize under tribal law the way the UAW did.

"The workers have spoken and we look forward to sitting down and negotiating a fair contract for both sides," he said. "We will negotiate under tribal law, we have no problem doing that."

Legal counsel for the Mashantucket Pequots had recently challenged the ruling of NLRB's regional director, which had asserted that the federal agency had jurisdiction over the organizing effort. The federal NLRB in Washington, D.C., rejected that challenge Friday.

The National Labor Relations Act prohibits unfair labor practices and gives workers the rights to organize and bargain with employers.

The tribe's General Counsel, Jackson King, noted late Saturday in a statement that the tribe has cooperated on a government-to-government basis with the NLRB while legal objections are pending.

The tribe stated: "It is the policy of the United States to encourage and support tribal self-government. Mashantucket Pequot laws provide a fair process for employees to select union representation and pursue collective-bargaining if they so desire. We continue to believe that tribal law should apply in these matters and will continue to pursue that challenge through all appropriate legal channels."

The tribe recently amended its tribal labor laws to allow a majority of those casting ballots to carry an election - the same way NLRB elections are counted - instead of a majority of those eligible to vote. However, the Mashantuckets' tribal labor law still differs from federal law in that it doesn't allow strikes.

Earlier in the day, after about 150 people voted during the morning session at the Foxwoods Hospitality Learning Center, Petronella said the mood of workers was "upbeat."

The union challenged six voters in the morning and two in the afternoon, saying they were not eligible because they did not fit the job descriptions of bartender, bar server or bar porter, Petronella said. Each challenged ballot was put in a brown envelope, sealed and dropped in the ballot box, and the challenges were later resolved, he said.

Past unsuccessful organizing bids included the International Union of Operating Engineers and the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, which sought to represent Foxwoods' off-track betting workers.

The engineers' union lost because of the previous stiffer voting standard that had been established, until recently, by the tribe.