On April 6, some 2,300 workers at Caesars Windsor Casino resort — just over the river to the southeast of Detroit on the Canadian side — walked off the job. Nearly two months later (53 days to be exact), there’s still no sign of a deal, and Ontario, Canada’s largest casino remains nonoperational.
There was hope for a resolution late last week when Unifor Local 444 — the union representing the striking workers — reached a tentative agreement with the casino. However, 53 percent then voted against accepting the new contract last Friday, extending the strike into its eighth week.
The striking employees include most of the casino resort’s workers, from table dealers to housekeepers, and from janitors to cooks. They’re demanding significant improvements to their wages and working conditions, like their counterparts at the Culinary Union (minus the gaming floor employees) who are pushing for the same in Las Vegas right now.
With all hotel reservations and events currently on hold, the strike is starting to become a major economic concern for the region.
Spinoff Impact Being Felt
A full-scale closure like this one is extremely rare in the North American gaming industry. Almost every other casino has its employees split up among several different unions, allowing it to continue operating in some capacity during labor disputes. Any stoppages that do happen are usually resolved within a few weeks.
Not so in Windsor, much to the chagrin of tourism officials. With the region’s number one attraction shuttered, local restaurants, shops, and even other hotels are starting to feel the effects, and not just because the stream of tourists is drying up.
It’s difficult to estimate [the financial impact], but tourism is an economic generator and job creator,” CEO of Tourism Windsor Gordon Orr told the Windsor Star. “You also have 2,300 employees right now with no income. ”
With the situation growing more dire by the day, some have wondered whether the province’s Ministry of Finance, which oversees the casino, may intervene. However, while the ministry is “supportive of a positive resolution as soon as possible,” leaders have relayed no plans to step in to resolve the work stoppage.
Meanwhile, representatives from the casino side have refused to comment since the latest deal was voted down.
Is Vegas Next?
It’s that exact type of situation that Sin City is hoping to avoid.
On May 22, the 50,000 casino resort workers who make up the Las Vegas Culinary Union voted by an overwhelming 99 percent to take job action. It means that unless an 11th-hour agreement is reached, workers could walk off the job as of June 1.
Along with guarantees of better wages and working conditions, protections from sexual harassment in the workplace is also a hot button for Las Vegas Culinary Union members. If they do hit the picket line later this week — a situation that Strip gaming kingpins MGM and Caesars Entertainment would seem to almost certainly hope to avoid — industry experts estimate that it could cost the Las Vegas economy as much as $45 million per day.
The last time the city witnessed such a walkout was in 1984, when 30,000 hotel workers went on strike for 67 days.