In a bid for equitable pay and improved work environments, Detroit witnesses a massive strike by thousands of casino workers, extending their support to the labor movement in the Motor City. The ongoing cost-of-living surge and stagnant wages have compelled these workers to step away from their duties.
The strike action has specifically impacted the operations of three major casinos: the MGM Grand Detroit under MGM Resorts International, MotorCity Casino, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown owned by Penn Entertainment. A diverse workforce of 3,700 individuals, encompassing dealers, cleaners, food service staff, valets, engineers, and more, has united under the banner of the Detroit Casino Council, which is an amalgamation of five different unions, including the United Auto Workers.
The immediate consequences of this labor movement have been felt across the casinos. MotorCity Casino’s website promptly displayed the closure of high-limit table games, poker rooms, casino valet services, and even some of its dining establishments and bars. In a bid to adhere to Michigan’s regulatory requirements, FanDuel, which operates the FD Sportsbook in conjunction with MotorCity, announced its temporary closure, with a non-union employee managing the cash counter for ticket cash-ins.
While Hollywood Casino at Greektown expressed disappointment with the workers’ decision, emphasizing their generous settlement offers, they affirmed their intention to remain open for business. Similarly, Matt Buckley, President and COO of MGM’s Midwest Group, conveyed his commitment to keep the MGM Grand Detroit operational, asserting that their proposal includes the most substantial pay increase in the history of the establishment.
The Detroit Casino Council argues that casino workers had agreed to a three-year contract during the stressful early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has since expired. The previous deal included 3% wage increases, but in the face of a 20% surge in the cost of living due to high inflation, the union found it inadequate. They pointed out that the gaming industry’s revenues have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, reaching record highs, yet the workers’ wages remained stagnant.
However, it’s worth noting that traditional brick-and-mortar casinos faced a slight decline in revenues in 2022 compared to 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, generating approximately $200 million less.
The Detroit Casino Council’s revenue figures include iGaming and online sports revenues, which are vital for securing licenses to operate as mandated by Michigan gaming regulators. The strike, if prolonged, could jeopardize an estimated $738,000 in city and state tax revenues daily, along with risking $3.4 million in casino operator revenues.
In a parallel development, MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Wynn Resorts are bracing for potential strikes in Las Vegas, with nearly 40,000 members of the Culinary Union authorizing a strike. Negotiations are ongoing.
MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle expressed the challenges faced by casinos in Las Vegas, emphasizing the significance of fair wages and basic living conditions for workers, in contrast to the demands made in Detroit. He stressed the importance of addressing the local labor context and the needs of front-line employees to sustain a dignified living.
This strike in Detroit is emblematic of a broader nationwide movement to secure fair compensation and improved working conditions for laborers in the gaming and hospitality industry.