Press-Democrat: Graton casino workers vote to join union

Employees with the Graton Resort & Casino have voted to unionize, a move that adds the Rohnert Park tribal gaming destination to the widening trend of union representation of casino workers nationwide.

The vote by Graton casino employees sets in motion collective bargaining for a new contract with the casino, which opened in November. Union officials said they will look to protect benefits currently offered to casino employees, including 100 percent employer paid health care to all employees who work more than 20 hours a week.

“There is no preset list of demands,” said Sarah Norr, a researcher with Unite Here Local 2850, which will represent 600 casino janitors, cooks, waiters and gaming workers. “Definitely solidifying existing benefits is important to our workers.”

More than 70 percent of affected employees decided to join the union in an election that began last month. The other 30 percent did not participate in the process. Union organizers announced the results of the election Tuesday.

The move comes as union membership is declining nationwide but growing among casino workers. Unite Here represents 100,000 workers at gambling sites in the United States and Canada. About half of casino workers are unionized in California and nationally, according to Unite Here.

Under an agreement between Unite Here and the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria, which owns the casino, workers were allowed to choose whether to become union members without interference from the employer. Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris, who pressed for the deal to allow unionization, said he was pleased workers at the casino, one of Sonoma County’s largest service employers, would have their benefits contractually ensured.

“I’m so happy that people will have good jobs with us for as long as we’re around,” he said. “The selling point is not that people get better benefits, but that they get to keep them.”

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Press-Democrat: Graton casino workers voting on union

Larry Smith gave a cheer as he signed his union card Tuesday in a conference room at the Graton Resort and Casino.

Smith, who has worked as a porter in the maintenance department since the casino opened just outside of Rohnert Park in November, said unionizing will result in labor practices that are more equitable.

“We want to speak with one voice,” he said. “A lot of people are scared to take sick days. We don’t want to feel scared.”

About 600 gambling, maintenance and food and beverage workers at the new casino, one of Sonoma County’s largest service employers, are deciding this week whether to join a union.

Representatives from Unite Here, which represents 100,000 workers at gambling sites in the U.S. and Canada, explained the benefits of the union to off-duty employees Tuesday.

“We help to protect their jobs,” said Wei-Ling Huber, president of Unite Here Local 2850 of Oakland. “You want to have transparency, fair rules, security for the long term. When given the choice, people overwhelmingly choose to be represented.”

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The Town Hella Needs a Raise!!

On March 27, hundreds of East Bay hotel, restaurant and stadium workers – and allies from the community – took it to the streets of downtown Oakland! Workers called for fair contracts, a higher minimum wage and good jobs that pay what their families need to survive and thrive in the Bay Area in 2014!

“I work at the Oakland Airport, and we’re in a hard fight to keep our families out of poverty, but we’re not fighting alone. We’ve been joining up with Walmart workers, fast food workers, and everyone else who is struggling to pay their rent in the Bay Area. Now we’re going out on the streets in downtown Oakland to show the whole city how strong we are when we’re together!” said Nancy Moncada, retail clerk at the Oakland Airport.

“I believe that it is really important for all of us to come together on March 27th, because when my co-workers from the Coliseum unite with hotel and airport workers we have real strength. We did this five years ago, and we won good contracts, now is the time to make this action even bigger,” said Johnny Stake, a longtime Oakland resident and Coliseum stand worker.

Airport Strike Postponed! Action 12/21 11:30-1:30!

Due to encouraging progress in settlement talks, UNITE HERE Local 2850’s Unfair Labor Practice strike at the Oakland Airport is being postponed. There is no strike tomorrow. There will be a picket and holiday-themed action at Terminal 2 from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

Oakland Airport Food and Retail Workers Plan Strike During Holidays

Mercury News, 11/14/13 – Food and retail workers at the Oakland International Airport said Thursday that they plan to strike at some point during the holiday season to protest what they say are unfair labor practices, including low wages.

Sarah Norr, a spokeswomman for Unite Here Local 2850, which represents about 200 employees at the airport, said the date and length of a strike have not yet been set but workers plan to walk out at some point between Thanksgiving week and the end of the year.

Food and retail workers previously staged a one-day strike at the airport on Aug. 30.

The workers are employed by HMSHost, a Maryland-based company that won a 12-year contract for services at the airport, which is run by the Port of Oakland, in 2006. HMSHost runs food concessions at more than 100 airports around the world, according to the company’s website.

The employees have been working without a contract since July 2012.

Norr said veteran workers at the airport only earn $12 to $13 an hour and new employees only make $9.50 to $9.75 an hour.

She alleged that HMSHost is engaging in “regressive bargaining” by proposing reducing vacation and sick days, eliminating pensions and removing workers from the union’s affordable health insurance plan.

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Truthout: In Oakland, Airport Workers Cite Unfair Practices

Hayat Selmani showed up at the Oakland Airport at 7 AM Sunday. But she didn’t have on her uniform from the Subway sandwich concession. She wore street clothes. And instead of going to work, she picked up a sign and went on strike.

During the next half hour, several dozen other food concession workers joined her. A few wore their work uniforms, but most put on T-shirts with the logo of their union, Unite Here. Selmani, a slim young woman and a little shy, explained in a soft voice with a slight South Asian accent that although supporting the union was scary at first, it wasn’t any longer.

“I’m on strike to stand up for my rights and to show my boss that I’m not scared, ” she said. “I’m standing up to bring my coworkers back and to make them give me my hours back.”

A year ago, organizers from Local 2850 of Unite Here began talking with Selmani and other workers at the Subway and Jamba Juice concessions. The union already had a contract with the parent concessionaire at the airport, HMS Host, that covered a number of concessions. But some franchises, particularly those two, were very opposed.

Selmani’s coworker, Hakima Arhab, a Berber immigrant from Algeria, was interested in what the union had to say. “They were making us work like slaves,” she said. “I used to work 12 hours a day with just one ten-minute break and 20 minutes for lunch.” Read the full article.