Rhode Island Teamsters Cry Foul as Casino Valets, Drivers Await Twin River Recall

Posted on: July 21, 2021, 11:10h. 

Last updated on: July 22, 2021, 07:50h.

A Teamsters union official says more than three dozen valets and drivers have been off the job for way too long, and wants their Rhode Island casino employer to bring them back.

Twin River valets
The main entrance to the Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln, RI, is where valets worked before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now, more than 16 months since they were furloughed, local Teamsters leaders want the more than three dozen valets and shuttle drivers back on the job. (Image: Bally’s Corp.)

The workers were officially laid off from Twin River Casino Hotel in Lincoln last Sept. 30, according to a notice posted on the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training website. A year ago next week, Twin River announced that potentially more than 1,040 workers furloughed after the COVID-19 forced shutdown in March 2020 may become permanent layoffs.

The layoffs were because of the gradual reopening casinos endured after being closed for months last year. The reopening phases included reduced hours, mandated social distancing, and capacity restrictions, as well as a three-week closure in December as coronavirus cases spiked.

Capacity restrictions at the casino were officially lifted on May 21. However, not all amenities have reopened, including the 136-room hotel.

Still, in a press release on Monday, Teamsters Local 251 accused the casino owned and operated by Bally’s Corp. of playing games with workers he said served as the first point of contact for patrons when they arrived at Twin River before the pandemic.

“Our members at Twin River are fully capable, willing, and qualified to return to their positions immediately,” said Local Principal Officer Matthew Taibi. “They have always provided exceptional customer service to guests who visit the casino from all over New England. It is time for Twin River to recall them to work.”

Casino Valets and Drivers Back in September

In a statement to Casino.org on Tuesday, Bally’s Executive Director of Public Relations Diane Spiers said Twin River will resume valet service within a couple of months.

“The health and safety of our employees and guests continue to be critically important to us as we emerge from the global pandemic,” Spiers said. “Twin River Casino plans to reopen valet service in September, and we will communicate directly with our employees on an exact date.”

Union officials did not return several messages to a Casino.org reporter seeking comment.

Providence TV station NBC 10 spoke to a couple of the laid-off union members about their situation. Cory Almeida, who has worked as a casino valet for 16 years, told the station his family lost its health insurance with the layoff. He also had to empty his 401(k) to pay bills.

Since they are out of work because of COVID-19, the union members qualify for the $300 pandemic unemployment subsidy the federal government has added to unemployment checks. But Almeida said it’s not the perk some have claimed it to be.

The general population thinks that everybody that’s on unemployment is making more on unemployment,” Almeida said. “I can assure you, us in the valet, we haven’t been making more on unemployment since the beginning.”

The pandemic subsidy is scheduled to end on Sept. 6.

Twin River Bouncing Back from COVID-19

Like other US casinos, Twin River has enjoyed a nice run since the COVID-19 vaccines became available to a larger segment of the population. Revenue data is starting to reach pre-pandemic levels.

In May, Twin River reported a net income of $31 million from the video lottery terminals. That was the highest revenue figure since the casino took in $34.3 million in February 2020. However, as there were still restrictions in place for the month, that May revenue tally came despite Twin River’s gaming floor having more than 1,100 fewer games available (2,979 to 4,098).

Table games, which, as of May, were limited to a maximum of four players per table, have seen an increase in revenue as restrictions have been relaxed. However, they’re still behind pre-pandemic totals.

May table game net revenues were $7 million, the best month since reopening. However, that would have been the lowest full month in the 2020 fiscal year. In addition, monthly table game revenues for the 2019 fiscal year never dipped below $10.3 million

June figures are not yet available.