Who’s to Choose Shoes? Foxwoods Waitresses Play Footsies with Contract

Posted on: June 11, 2013, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: June 10, 2013, 08:22h.

When you list the important aspects of running a successful casino, the shoes worn by the waitresses probably won’t come in among the top hundred issues you consider. But at one casino in Connecticut, that’s exactly the issue that’s causing plenty of tension – and not just in the waitresses’ feet.

Union Negotiations Address Shoes

The Foxwoods Resort Casino in southeastern Connecticut is currently negotiating the first-ever union contract for the casino’s waitresses. But that contract is being held up by a few surprising issues, including one that’s all about the shoes.

The issue comes down to whether or not female servers should be required to wear high heels. Recently, Foxwoods imposed a requirement for all servers to wear at least two-inch heels – a ruling that didn’t go over well with waitresses, particularly those who had been on the job for many years. Foxwoods isn’t insisting on that exact clause being in a union contract, but they do want all servers wearing black shoes that would be subject to approval by casino management. There would be a medical exemption of up to one year, but beyond that period, servers would have to resign or move on to other positions.

While this might sound like a ridiculous issue at first, it’s actually quite the dilemma for both casinos and their workers.

Walk Softly and Carry a High Heel

For the casinos, high-heeled waitresses can help create an imagethat appeals to their largely male clientele. That has led to plenty of battles with casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and elsewhere, many of which have ended up in lawsuits. Meanwhile, many servers feel forced to wear high heels, whether that’s because of pressure from management or because it helps them generate more tips from customers.

But for many workers, the high heels ultimately cause health issues that force them to choose between changing their shoes and causing more permanent damage to their feet or legs. According to waitresses at Foxwoods, a requirement to have shoes approved by management could lead to many older servers being removed from their jobs if they can’t continue to wear heels.

“Most of us girls have been here for 20 years, 15 years,” cocktail waitress Cheryl Haase told the Associated Press. “This job has really done a number on our feet and they know it.”

Contract talks between the union and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, which operates Foxwoods, have now stretched on for two years. Arbitration hearings are set for September, and the shoe requirements are expected to be one of the top issues discussed at those meetings.