Rhode Island Casino Workers Authorize Strike at Bally’s Lincoln

Posted on: June 30, 2022, 09:16h. 

Last updated on: June 30, 2022, 09:35h.

Members of the Rhode Island casino union Unite Here Local 26 are threatening to walk off the job at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort as early as tomorrow, July 1.

Rhode Island casino Bally's Lincoln union strike
Bally’s Rhode Island casino workers rally outside the State House for workers’ right to return laws earlier this month. The casino workers are now threatening a strike at Bally’s Lincoln unless the casino immediately agrees to increase staffing levels and raise wages. (Image: The Valley Breeze)

Union officials held a strike authorization vote on Tuesday. Some 92% of the votes cast were in favor of a picket being called if Bally’s doesn’t agree to better working conditions.

Lincoln casino workers say they’re being overworked because of the property being understaffed. They want Bally’s to hire more workers and increase pay to cover higher costs of living due to record inflation.

Unite Here is a national trade group. In Rhode Island, the Local 26 chapter represents gaming employees at Bally’s Lincoln, but not Bally’s Tiverton. The union supports workers employed in the hospitality industry and at the state’s international airport.

The Bally’s Lincoln casino floor spans 162,000 square feet, with 4,100 slot machines, 125 table games, and a sportsbook. The resort is accompanied by a 136-room hotel with a spa, four restaurants, three distinct food courts featuring 16 dining options, nine bars, and three entertainment venues.

Union Demands

Unite Here Local 26 officials say Bally’s should be on alert for a picket of its flagship Lincoln casino resort if it’s not willing to increase wages and staffing levels. The union’s collective bargaining agreement with the Lincoln property expires at 12:01 am EDT on July 1.

The union says it has two primary demands: increased staffing and wage increases that match the rising costs of living.

Union officials claim Bally’s has not welcomed back all of the workers that the Lincoln casino laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, union brass contends that the casino’s workforce is just 40% of its pre-pandemic total.

Despite fewer workers, union members say the casino has been bustling in recent months.

Bally’s has come back at pretty much full strength,” said Valerie Costa, a bartender and cocktail server at the Lincoln property. “The casino is open and very busy, and they’re making a lot of money.

“It’s time to show that appreciation to workers by giving us the raises we deserve,” Costa added.

Unite Here leaders also argue that Bally’s has reduced full-time employment in the pandemic aftermath. Instead, they have created more part-time positions that allow the casino operator to cut costs on benefits overhead.

Bally’s Offers Denied

Bally’s has not commented publicly on its ongoing contract negotiations with Unite Here Local 26. But union reps say the casino company’s initial two offers of increasing hourly pay by 50 cents and then $1 were swiftly rejected.

Though a strike would likely impact operations at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln, it certainly wouldn’t require the property to temporarily shutter. Unite Here is a powerful union, but it represents only around 200 of the casino’s 1,900-strong workforce.

The union squabble comes the same week as Bally’s agreed to sell both of its Rhode Island casinos to Gaming and Leisure Properties for $1 billion. Bally’s will continue to operate the two casinos through a leaseback agreement with the real estate investment trust controlled by Penn National Gaming.