Union leaders said Tuesday talks with the Hollywood Casino in Toledo, Ohio were moving “very, very, very slow,” making threatened strike action on Thursday at midnight increasingly likely.
Around 400 casino workers are expected to walk off the job tomorrow unless a breakthrough can be made in negotiations between the United Auto Workers Local 14 (AUW), the United Steelworkers Union Local 346 (USW), and casino operator Penn Entertainment.
Last Wednesday, the unions projected a light display onto the façade of the Hollywood Casino that read “FAIR CONTRACTS NOW.”
The unions are fighting for a base wage of $7.35 per hour, which is the minimum wage in Ohio. Dealers at the Hollywood casino currently earn an hourly base wage of $6.36 but also collect tips from customers.
This brings their wages up to an average of around $20 per hour, which works out at $41,600 per year, pro rata, according to The Toledo Blade. The unions are also demanding health care benefits for hourly workers.
A three-year agreement between the union and Penn expired on December 1 but has been extended as parties push to find a solution.
Tony Totty, AUW president, told the Blade that another 400 workers at the Hollywood Casino Columbus, 120 miles away and a Penn property, were also ready to strike as talks there were stalling, too.
If there’s no progress, we may as well get the burn barrels ready,” he said, referencing union workers’ traditional method of generating warmth on the picket line. Totty emphasized that the strikes would come at a crucial time in the busy holiday season for Penn.
“These workers deserve a fair wage increase every American is getting right now because of inflation,” USW President Jim Witt told WTOL 11. “Everyone is hurt, and they need a contract that reflects that.”
“When you take on one of us, you get all of us, as you can hear from all the people passing by [honking their horns in support] that know the importance of unions in these towns,” Totty added.
Strike Pay Upped
Workers’ resolve will be buoyed by the UAW’s recent decision to increase strike pay from $275 to $400 per week.
The Blade notes that this represents about half the average workers’ weekly take-home pay, including tips. After tax, it’s more than 60%.
Talks were still ongoing as of Wednesday afternoon, staff representative for USW, Eric Sweeney, told WTOL.
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