Detroit strikes are part of historic wave of union action nationwide
For Immediate Release for November 15, 2023
Contact: Annemarie Strassel at 312-617-0495
Detroit, MI – Striking Detroit casino workers are taking action this evening at MotorCity Casino with labor allies, including AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler whose organization represents more than 12.5 million union workers. Hundreds of union workers and their community allies will be picketing outside the casino’s entrances tonight to demand the company settle a fair contract.
Detroit—considered by many to be the birthplace of the American labor movement—is now at the center of a national story about union workers fighting for economic justice. Casino workers in Detroit are part of a historic wave of strikes and other actions by working people across many industries to win a better way of life and combat a rigged economic system that for too long has favored the wealthy.
“Union casino workers kept this industry alive during the pandemic,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “But despite Detroit casino owners making record profits, they are refusing to take care of their workers. This is unjust, unfair and unethical. It is time to pay the workers who keep you in business a living wage, to provide health care that allows workers to care for themselves and their families and to guarantee the job security their employees have earned. We stand in solidarity with our union brothers and sisters on the strike line as they fight for the contract they deserve.”
“The big three Detroit casinos must get serious at the bargaining table and stop bullying the union workers who made them so profitable. It is disgraceful that, despite record profits, these casino operators refuse to provide our members with good healthcare or pay them a living wage,” said Greg Nowak, President of Teamsters 1038. “Detroit’s casino industry has put greed ahead of the well-being of the people who made them successful.”
“It’s absurd that casinos like MotorCity with all their profits are forcing workers to stay out in the cold to protect their healthcare and achieve decent raises,” said Nia Winston, President of Local 24. “Las Vegas casino workers are settling the best contracts in their history just like Atlantic City did last year—contracts with the largest wage increases ever, reduced workloads in housekeeping, and advancements in technology, health and safety. We’re dealing with some of the same players here, so why should Detroit be treated any differently? It’s time for MotorCity and the other casinos to give the people of Detroit the respect they are due.”
On Oct. 17, unionized casino workers at MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Hollywood Casino at Greektown launched a wall-to-wall strike affecting 3700 casino workers, including dealers, cleaning staff, food and beverage workers, valets, engineers, and more. Workers have been forced on strike to protect their healthcare and improve wages that are not keeping up with the cost of living, along with improved job security and fair workloads. This is the first casino strike in Detroit history.
Detroit’s casino workers sacrificed raises and shouldered heavier workloads so the industry could recover from the pandemic. In September 2020, workers agreed to a three-year contract extension with minimal wage increases to help the industry get back on its feet. Since then, Detroit casino workers have received only 3% raises, but inflation in Detroit has risen 20%. In contrast, industry gaming revenues have now surpassed pre-pandemic levels to reach a new record high. In 2022, the Detroit casino industry generated $2.27 billion in gaming revenue and is on track for another record-breaking year in 2023.
New numbers released by the Michigan Gaming Control Board on Nov. 14 show that revenues for in-person gaming at Detroit’s three casinos were down $20 million in October compared to the same month last year – the lowest month for Detroit casinos since December 2020 when casinos were shut down for most of the month because of COVID restrictions. The Detroit Casino Council estimates that Detroit casino industry in-person gaming revenues from slots, table games, and retail sports betting were down 40% during the 15 days of the strike in October, based on Michigan Gaming Control Board monthly reports from October 2022 and October 2023.
The Detroit Casino Council (DCC) is UNITE HERE Local 24, the UAW, Teamsters Local 1038, Operating Engineers Local 324, and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters. These five unions represent most of the workers at the three casinos in Detroit: Hollywood Casino at Greektown, MGM Grand Detroit, and MotorCity Casino. Our members work in food and beverage, housekeeping, retail outlets, slots and table games, engineering and more. The DCC partner unions are part of International Unions that have experience representing gaming workers and winning great contracts throughout the United States, including in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.